Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

December 20, 2013

Recycling effort takes hit with glass

Barry Porterfield
Pauls Valley Democrat — A growing recycling program here in Pauls Valley has finally been forced to face facts when it came to one item in particular.

That item is glass, which up to now has been a part of a program that earlier this year got a big boost with a new recycling center.

The realities of attempting to recycle glass have finally led officials leading the program to announce their decision to stop accepting the item at the new center after Dec. 31.

That means no more glass will be accepted at the center on South Walnut after the new 2014 year arrives.

The reasons are simple — glass has a low value in the recycling world and it’s just too expensive to transport to recycling centers typically located in larger metro areas.

Chip Pearson, program director at the Garvin County Living Center, which oversees the recycling program, says they knew early on that recycling glass might run into problems.

“There was the likelihood we’d run into issues with glass and we knew that going in,” Pearson said.

“We believed the odds were against us recycling glass, but we were hoping to maybe join up with another community,” he said. “We thought maybe we can do it at the break even point.

“I want the people to know the Garvin County Living Center, the recycling committee and the city (of Pauls Valley) all regret it comes to this. As far as the sustainability (of glass) it’s just not possible.”

Up to now the recycling center has accepted a variety of items, including glass containers of all kinds and colors.

The way the process is supposed to work is the glass is pulverized, stored and if properly recycled then shipped in a covered truck to a recycling plant specializing in glass.

The real problem is with the value of recycled glass and the cost to transport the materials on a regular basis.

These are the two factors ultimately leading to the decision to drop glass from the list of materials accepted at the local recycled center.

“There are getting to be fewer and fewer people who can ship it,” Pearson said.

“The big thing is the value of glass is less than the cost of shipping it to a distant area,” he said. “That is why you, for the most part, don’t see glass recycling in rural areas — the proximity to the plant where the glass has to be shipped to.

“The glass is a low value commodity in the recycling business. It’s simply logistics. There’s not a great way to approach it.”

With the glass too expensive to take to a recycling plant the materials here have instead been crushed and taken to the landfill used by the city of Pauls Valley.

Pearson stresses the positive here is the crushed glass takes up far less space than one might think.

“Although we can’t keep the glass out of the landfill we are crushing it down and reducing the volume that goes in there,” he said.

Since the center opened here in PV the materials drawing the largest quantities have been paper and plastic; maybe four times the amounts expected.

“By removing the glass option it does give us a little room for paper and plastic storage.”

The list of items now accepted at the recycling center include plastics, numbers 1 through 4, which is a recycle code seen at the bottom of the item, steel cans, aluminum cans, paper, cardboard, newspaper and office copy paper.

Each item dropped off at the center should be relatively clean, empty, have no lids in the case of plastics and be smashed if possible.

Despite dropping glass, the center is looking at the possibility of expanding the recycling program in other ways.

Pearson says he is looking into possible markets for recycled electronic items, power cords and cell phones.