HRRA con­sid­ers re­cy­cling glass sep­a­rately

The News-Times - - NEWS - By Ka­t­rina Ko­ert­ing Why now? Re­gional or town by town?

What is sup­posed to be a mound of glass at a lo­cal pro­cess­ing fa­cil­ity usu­ally looks more like trash than re­cy­clables. Bot­tle caps, shreds of pa­per, bat­ter­ies and straws are of­ten in­ter­spersed among the glass that will be sold.

But a pro­posal to re­cy­cle glass sep­a­rate from the rest of the sin­gle stream re­cy­cling com­ing back to the Housatonic Re­sources Re­cov­ery Au­thor­ity on Fri­day is aimed to help pre­vent that by clean­ing up the stream and mak­ing the ma­te­ri­als more mar­ketable. Ad­vo­cates ar­gue that the glass breaks through­out the re­cy­cling process, con­tam­i­nat­ing the other re­cy­clables by at­tach­ing to fibers, pa­per and card­board.

“Glass is very re­cy­clable and glass has value when it’s sep­a­rated, but glass in sin­gle stream is a con­tam­i­nant,” said Jennnifer Heaton-Jones, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor for the HRRA, which serves 11 towns in the Dan­bury area.

If ap­proved, this will be­come the first pilot pro­gram in the state to take glass out of sin­gle stream. The state Depart­ment of En­ergy and En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion still must sign off on it. The au­thor­ity dis­cussed it at the last meet­ing but there wasn’t a quo­rum to vote.

Un­der the HRRA pro­posal, glass would have to be taken out of the sin­glestream re­cy­cling and brought to the trans­fer sta­tions sep­a­rately. Oak Ridge Waste and Re­cy­cling will bring the glass from the trans­fer sta­tions to the glass pro­ces­sors.

Heaton-Jones said the glass also causes problems at the pro­cess­ing plants be­cause the shards break down into a dust in the ma­chines.

“It be­comes an abra­sive and wears (the equip­ment) down, cost­ing the fa­cil­ity money,” Heaton-Jones said.

Heaton-Jones said the change has been in the works for about a year but there were sev­eral fac­tors that got the au­thor­ity to this point, in­clud­ing the pas­sage of a pub­lic act this year that al­lows for mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties to cre­ate these twoyear pilot pro­grams that sep­a­rates glass from sin­gle stream.

A large fac­tor was China’s de­ci­sion to clean up what it col­lects, known as Na­tional Sword. The pol­icy tight­ened its cri­te­ria on what ma­te­ri­als it takes in, col­lect­ing only re­cy­clables with only 0.5 per­cent con­tam­i­na­tion. China an­nounced the pol­icy in Fe­bru­ary 2017, with the strict en­force­ment of the con­tam­i­na­tion level begin­ning March 2018.

“It’s be­come more and more dif­fi­cult and the cost has risen as well,” said Ridge­field First Select­man Rudy Mar­coni.

Haulers have to make up the dif­fer­ence of the de­creased mar­ket value of the ma­te­ri­als they’re col­lect­ing by in­creas­ing tip­ping fees at the front end. Tip­ping fees in some places of Con­necti­cut are as high as $85 a ton.

“When I look at the sit­u­a­tion I see do­ing noth­ing isn’t go­ing to help our res­i­dents and mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties,” Heaton-Jones said. “We have to have a so­lu­tion and the so­lu­tion is clean­ing up the re­cy­cling.”

The HRRA’s con­tam­i­na­tion rate is at 20 per­cent now.

“The idea is to im­prove the qual­ity of re­cy­cling and help to re­duce the cost, or at least stop the in­crease, of re­cy­cling,” she said.

It’s es­ti­mated that clean glass has a value of $10 to $15 a ton.

Mem­bers will de­cide on Fri­day whether to roll out the pilot pro­gram as an au­thor­ity or on a town by town ba­sis.

Robert Hanna, New Mil­ford’s re­cy­cling man­ager, sug­gests one town test this out first. He wor­ries rolling out an ini­tia­tive like this in all 11 towns is too big of an un­der­tak­ing. He sug­gested Dan­bury as the pilot be­cause it has the most res­i­dents and largest col­lec­tion of haulers so it would be a true pilot on whether or not the pro­gram works and get the kinks out.

“If that is a suc­cess­ful pro­gram, then ex­pand it,” he said.

Hanna said he also wor­ries that by re­quir­ing peo­ple to bring glass to the trans­fer sta­tion in­stead of al­low­ing it in sin­gle stream will triple the amount of cus­tomers at New Mil­ford’s fa­cil­ity. There are about 25,000 homes in Brook­field, Sher­man and New Mil­ford, which are all served at the site. He said that even if only 10 per­cent of these homes bring glass to the trans­fer sta­tion, it will greatly add to the 1,200 or so cus­tomers that it av­er­ages a week.

Hanna also wor­ries that re­quir­ing peo­ple to re­move glass will re­sult in some peo­ple sep­a­rat­ing it, oth­ers con­tin­u­ing to put it in sin­gle stream and oth­ers who will just throw it out.

He said the au­thor­ity and state just rolled out a big ef­fort to ed­u­cate peo­ple on what can and can’t be re­cy­cled in the bins and tak­ing glass out now will con­fuse peo­ple.

Glass is a state-man­dated re­cy­clable, which means mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties have to col­lect it and res­i­dents still have to re­cy­cle it.

Mar­coni said Ridge­field plans to make the change whether the whole au­thor­ity signs on or not. He’s en­cour­ag­ing res­i­dents to bring it to the trans­fer sta­tion di­rectly. He plans to es­tab­lish a base­line of re­cy­cled ma­te­rial now and then com­pare it with what is brought and sold while sep­a­rat­ing glass.

“By pick­ing the glass out, we feel we can control the in­crease by be­com­ing more ef­fi­cient at the re­cy­cling cen­ters and at home,” he said.

Heaton-Jones said HRRA ad­min­is­tered a sur­vey to about 720 res­i­dents about re­mov­ing glass. About 90 per­cent said they would sep­a­rate and about 75 per­cent said they would drive that glass to the trans­fer sta­tions.

“That’s pos­i­tive to me,” she said, adding the au­thor­ity needs to fig­ure out how to make it eas­ier to get the glass to the trans­fer sta­tion. “It’s im­por­tant for our en­vi­ron­ment, it’s im­por­tant for our eco­nomics. It’s an ex­am­ple of the cir­cu­lar econ­omy. I have faith our res­i­dents will do the right thing once we in­form them.”

Con­trib­uted photo

Re­cy­cled glass is pro­cessed at a lo­cal re­cy­cling fa­cil­ity. Small items gets mixed with the glass, con­tam­i­nat­ing it and re­duc­ing its mar­ket value.

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