Let's Talk Trash: Transparent about glass

Perhaps it’s fitting that glass is usually transparent, because we often look right past it.

Take a quick inventory of how glass serves you daily. Coming in many forms, from lightbulbs to mirrors and fiberglass to medical equipment, it’s everywhere. Where does glass go at the end of its life? How can we make better use of this incredible reusable resource?

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Made from a combination of sand, recycled glass, soda ash and limestone, glass is formed at high temperatures. By adding different chemicals to glass, it changes its properties and appearance. Adding these to glass affects the recycling industry, as glass may need to be separated into different categories to be recycled back into a similar product, but this is only one reason some types of glass are not accepted at many recycling depots.

Recycle BC (RBC) is the non-profit that processes most of our packaging and printed paper. Packaging, being the operative word here, as it is not responsible for recycling any types of products.

A drinking glass, pyrex pie plate, or pane of glass are not packaging, but rather, products. Producers of glass packaging pay a fee to RBC that funds the recycling of their product’s packaging at the end of its life.

The producers of glass products do not pay fees so there is no program designed to pay for their recycling. According to RBC, most of the glass it collects from Powell River is sent to Abbotsford, where it is prepared to make new glass bottles. If the glass is too contaminated with other materials such as food residue, it may be sent to Quesnel to be made into sandblast material or construction aggregate.

Speaking of glass and recycling depots, City of Powell River does not accept glass at curbside. Recycle BC opted out for glass in curbside bins for the simple reason that glass is breakable. One broken jar can make an entire recycling truck’s load contaminated and thus non-recyclable. This is the same reason why styrofoam is only collected at recycling depots. 

Glass beverage bottles should go to our Return-It depot or a local group or individual willing to do the sorting in exchange for the refund. This system is so effective it sees 87 per cent of eligible glass bottles returned.

Local businesses are getting onboard with independent deposits offered in store, in order to encourage consumers. Once returned, containers are sterilized and kept in the loop for reuse.

Curiously, it can be hard for a medium-scale business to arrange for their bottles to be sterilized as there are no bottle-washing services offered in BC and purchasing the machine is costly.

As always, reusing wins over recycling, and local reuse is the best way to care for our planet.

Get creative with reusing containers and other glass items that come into your life, and where you can, advocate for local processing and reuse before recycling.

Let’s Talk Trash is qathet Regional District’s waste-reduction education program.

Copyright © Powell River Peak


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