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 (source link no longer active, but try this one)


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