Monongalia County SWA to stop recycling glass - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Monongalia County SWA to stop recycling glass

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The Board of the Monongalia County Solid Waste Authority decided at its April 29 meeting to stop accepting glass in its recycling program as of the end of June.

"Our program has seen no profit from accepting glass in over ten years," reads a posting on the SWA's blog. "With the changes in local/state recycling, our program was one of the last to still accept glass. The change of glass recycling is a statewide issue."

The SWA's recycling program is nearly self sustaining, said Recycling Coordinator Donnie DeBerry, with less than 10 percent of its budget coming from the Monongalia County Commission and the remainder from recycling proceeds.

The SWA hauled its glass to Bradish Glass in Greensburg, Pa. and received nothing for green glass and less than $10/ton for brown and clear glass, DeBerry said. It recycled more than 300 tons of glass over the past year.

"Last year alone we lost almost $48,000 from glass," DeBerry said, not counting the cost of maintenance and repairs caused by broken glass at the SWA's community recycling center in Westover and its nine satellite drop-off sites.

It's the only recycling stream that loses money. The program is otherwise successful enough that it currently is constructing a new community recycling center at the Morgantown Industrial Park in Westover, to open this summer.

"This site is too small for us and is laid out oddly because it wasn't made for this purpose," DeBerry said. "We're starting from scratch and designing it the way it should be designed. It's going to be large enough to house the commodities indoors. The steel is up and they've started pouring concrete."

Recycling glass is a problem in West Virginia because there's no market source nearby that wants it, said Mark Holstine, executive director of the West Virginia Solid Waste Management Board.

And it's always been a management problem for recycling facilities, Holstine said, because the various colors of glass can't be mixed, because it's heavy to haul, and because broken glass contaminates other recycling streams and creates a hazard.

And in contrast to some other materials that can be recycled, he said, glass is benign from an environmental standpoint.

"It breaks up into very small particles and turns back to what it was to begin with, which is sand," he said. "Not that we want to fill our landfills up but with it, but a Mason jar turns to pretty much nothing when you break it."

It's a fluid market, according to Holstine. Berkeley County is looking to increase glass recycling, he said, and Kanawha County recently announced that it would begin recycling glass again.

At the same time, he said, whether and how to recycle glass becomes less of solid waste management problem over time as packagers of soft drinks, juices and other grocery items turn increasingly to plastic and aluminum.

The decision to discontinue recycling glass was a hard one for Monongalia County, made over several months' time, DeBerry said.

"But it lets us continue collecting as much as we can and provide the other services we do now, and keep going with electronics recycling and tire events with the (state Department of Environmental Protection). We're hoping this isn't our final answer but it is our answer for now."