We Don’t Recycle Brown Glass

No Brown GlassI’ve been collecting glass (mostly beer bottles) for 6 months, ever since my wife and I moved to Salt Lake City. I learned quickly that Salt Lake City does not accept glass in the curbside bins. They have a few drop off stations around the city/county where citizens must go to recycle glass. Adding injury to insult, Salt Lake City does not recycle brown glass.

I was shocked by these recycling no-nos.

Why No Glass

Of course I did a bit of investigating. I called the city. I called the county. I spoke with a few of the recycling centers and local breweries. They all told me the same thing – confirmed by The Official (Salt Lake) City Government Website – It’s more expensive to recycle glass in Salt Lake than it is to manufacture it new.

Wow, right?

More specifically,

There are only a few small operations in Utah that will accept used glass. If we collected glass curbside, most of it would have to be shipped, at a very high cost, to out-of-state markets. (source link no longer active, but try this one)

and

Glass Challenges:

  • Local end markets are limited
  • Local end-markets prefer color sorted glass, and we do not have a local facility capable of sorting glass by color
  • Glass markets exist in neighboring states, but most of the time the revenue for the glass doesn’t cover the cost to ship it there
  • If glass is mixed with other recyclables in a curbside bin, it makes the other materials less desirable (paper manufacturers prefer paper without glass shards mixed in with it) (Source)

Fair enough, I guess. The cost/benefit logic makes sense. However, I wouldn’t be deterred! After all, I had 6 months of (beer) bottles in the back of my car. I found my local drop-off station and started unloading my bottles. A few minutes in, I noticed the big yellow sign: All glass except brown (see picture at the top of this post). The bad news for me was that the majority of the beer I drink comes in brown glass bottles. Argh. So I moved on.

Enter Uinta Brewing Company

I wasn’t going to give up in my pursuit to recycle my brown glass. I made a few more calls, drove around most of the city, and finally found the headquarters of one of my favorite local breweries, Uinta Brewing Company.

Uinta Brewing Company

I was pleasantly surprised to see Uinta not only on Twitter, but replying to mentions. Nice job! As it turns out, the brewery is also a mini pub/restaurant. Pretty cool, right? I could have had a burger and sucked down a fresh Uinta pint all while watching the brewing process live. Of course to top things off, they also let me recycle my brown glass. Triple win for Uinta.

I decided against the burger and beer – still not sure why – and simply recycled my brown glass (Note: Not all of those bottles in the picture are mine. I like beer, but not that much). Life was back to somewhat normal.

So Who Cares?

Fine. So why is this blog-worthy? Who cares? Salt Lake City makes you drop off your glass at recycling stations. They don’t have many options to recycle brown glass. Big deal. Well, I think it’s somewhat important. I don’t think of myself as a recycling freak. I do my best. I do my part. I just worry that for the average American if you don’t make recycling easy, they are simply not going to do it.

Certainly this in not the end of the world. After all, it seems to me that once glass is compacted it doesn’t take up too much space in a landfill. Maybe it’s just the principle that bothers me.

What do you think? Do you care? How does your city and/or county handle glass recycling?

DJ Waldow
@djwaldow

26 comments
RainySoul
RainySoul

I think its great to see so many comments from people wanting to recycle in Utah. Wyoming sucks as well for any type of recycling. It always surprises me to find very little recycling in Utah, and almost ZERO easy recycling. Mormons make up most of the state, and they believe the Earth will be the "celestial kingdom" (i.e. heaven). So why wouldn't they be leaders in taking care of at least their state, if not the planet? Talk about being hypocritical.

karen
karen

sorry, glass bottles are recycled, beer bottles re-used

karen
karen

Just curious? Here in Canada (Ontario) all our beer bottles (clear and brown - most are brown) go back to the beer store and are re-used by the companies where they originated. Is that not done in the US, or at least your state? You get 10 cents each  for cans and bottles and 20 cents for wine and liquor bottles.

Glass Guy
Glass Guy

Please pay attention here for I am part of the "group" in GLASS RECYCLING GROUP located and in buisness in the city of Salt Lake. Ther is no company currently to recyle and poduce bottles from used glass. Uinta sends tyhier brown glass to us.  Curbside pick up is not even close to a reasonable possibility for several reason. Even though our city has recently thrown away half a million dollars investing in a company that has no history working with the very difficult glass recycling and will most likly fold in caos and bankruptcy with in a year, but I will Get off that subject. Glass is one of the only resources that exist one our polluted planet the never loses its value no matter how many times it is recycled. and evermore glass in the landfill it is forever, it never breaks down. So now I will really stir the pot. The county knows, the city knows, the landfill knows, THAT WE TAKE AND NEED GLASS111111 WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON. !!! Why are our honest and real efforts for us to do the "right thing"  and for us to help our community do the right thing consistently thwarted ????????

djwaldow
djwaldow

[email protected] about Uinta?

Tvest
Tvest

I have 20,000 Lbs of brown glass I would like to recycle, Just got off the phone from the Salt Lake landfill and they were useless. Any help....

Mallory
Mallory

Thank you so much for posting this. I admit I didn't start recycling until a couple years ago and Utah makes it SO HARD to do so! I can't believe it. The good thing is that Super Targets now have recycling bins inside, however they are small and I guess they are meant to be used for on-hand garbage (drink cups, napkins, etc). They have one bin for glass and aluminum; another for cell phones and electronics and one for paper. I admit I feel like a bit of a dork piling in with my cart full of big bags, but of all the things I will do to make sure my family is able to recycle, this is small in comparison.
Thanks so much again! Please keep us updated on any new findings!

Dana C
Dana C

Hey Thanks DJ for the info. I also found out that Forest Dale Golf Course accepts all colors of glass for recycling. They are located @ 2475 South 900 East. I called Salt Lake County and received this info. You can call 801-535-7922 ask for their recycling dept and give them your address and they will tell you where the nearest drop off location is to you. Good Luck!

ljohnstun
ljohnstun

Hey, the link to your souce about the costs related to shipping curbside glass seems to be inactive. I would like the info if you still have it available.
Thanks,
Leslie Johnstun

Lisa Kuftinec
Lisa Kuftinec

Thanks MicJohnson on this info about Ripple Glass and Boulevard Brewing Company. We will definitely check it out.

Just want to make it clear that the brown glass Uinta receives is truly recycled. We have partnered with folks that repurpose the glass.

Thanks again to DJ Waldow for the post. We are glad folks are interested enough in recycling efforts to seek out more information.

Beer Drinker
Beer Drinker

For the past month, my city did not handle recycling duties in my neighborhood. Our recycling day was interrupted by such insignificant days as Christmas and New Years Day, with no (known) alternative. But today Friday, when I get home, I am hoping to see the mountain gone from the curb. And like you, a good chunk of my recycling is brown beer bottles. Luckily, they do allow us to mix them with the rest of the materials.

I also think it's awesome that a brewery was the solution to your recycling problem. But for sure, making it easy for the average person is the only way they are going to recycle.

As for singling out brown bottles, sounds like bottle racism.

matthewglidden
matthewglidden

Cambridge, MA is apparently happy to take all glass containers. With a 5-cent deposit, we've also got the grey economy of people who push big shopping carts down the street, scavenging bottles from the bins prior to collection. There's a little of everything!

MicJohnson
MicJohnson

Good stuff, DJ. You want to see who does it right, check out Ripple Glass. It just started up a few months ago in Kansas City and is going very well. It was started by the guys that are responsible for KC's best local brewery, Boulevard Brewing Company. As I understand it, they have contracted to have bins set up all over the city...the glass is compacted, recycled and used for insulation.

http://www.rippleglasskc.com/

http://www.blvdbeer.com/

Mic

debhenry
debhenry

Great post DJ. Very informative, engaging, full of references and just the right length. I am so glad you came to SLC. Cheers.

Brandon101
Brandon101

Thanks for the post DJ. I think it matters. I don't claim to have all the answers on the economic trade-offs for recycling glass, but what comes to mind is that some places are making it work, so why can't others? Is it a question of educating the public on the benefits of recycling? Why are there so few operations in Utah that recycle glass, thus making shipping the glass an issue? Perhaps these last two questions go hand in hand? If more people recycled glass, would it make more local operations feasible?

I think all of these questions are worth asking because in the bigger picture, it matters how we approach recycling of everything, not just glass. We can't keep using resources at the pace we have been and dumping our waste in landfills - it's just not sustainable. Our generation might not pay for it, but future generations no doubt will. Is this the legacy we want to leave?

As I was commenting here, this article popped up in my TweetDeck. I can't think of a better place to share it than here: http://twilightearth.com/climate-change/senior-...

Thanks for putting this out there DJ. It matters.

Brandon