Recycling

Baltimore County Admits It Hasn't Been Recycling Glass for 7 Years. It Still Encourages Residents to Recycle Glass.

When ritual is more important than reuse

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Baltimore County residents' have had their perceptions about where their glass ends up shattered.

Over the weekend, news broke that the county—which does not include the City of Baltimore—has not been recycling the glass it's been collecting as part of its recycling program. For the past seven years, the jars and bottles that residents dutifully placed in their blue bins have been being junked instead.

"There are numerous issues with glass recycling, including increased presence of shredded paper in recycling streams which contaminates materials and is difficult to separate from broken glass fragments, in addition to other limitations on providing quality material," county spokesperson Sean Naron told The Baltimore Sun.

Glass recycling reportedly stopped in 2013, the same year the county opened a $23 million single-stream recycling facility, according to the Sun article.

Single-stream recycling refers to the practice of letting people put all their recyclables into one bin, then sorting it at material processing facilities, rather than have people sort their papers, plastics, and glass into separate containers at the curb.

Baltimore County had adopted single-streaming for all homes by October 2010, part of a growing trend among municipalities trying to boost recycling rates. The thinking was that if you make recycling easier, more people will do it.

A study from the American Forest & Paper Association found the percent of the population covered by a single-stream recycling service that included glass grew from 22 percent in 2005 to 73 percent in 2014.

The trouble with single-streaming is that placing everything in the same bin increases the chances of contamination. Non-compatible materials get mixed together or coated with food waste. So a good deal of the glass isn't pure enough to ground down and be shipped to glass manufacturers.

Chemical & Engineering News notes that only 40 percent of glass collected by single-stream recycling services ends up being recycled into new products, compared to 90 percent of glass in multi-stream collection systems.

The same article notes that the cost of transporting heavy glass from recycling centers to glass manufacturers is often prohibitively high, meaning it's often more economical to just make glass out of new materials.

Regardless of the material in question, the American recycling industry has been going through a crisis over the last several years. Rising rates of contamination and the effective closure of a major export market in China, which stopped accepting most American plastic, have left material processing facilities with no willing buyers. Many of the recyclables that are collected therefore end up in landfills or incinerators.

And that's what's been happening to Baltimore County's glass. Yet county officials are wary about telling people to stop recycling the stuff, according to the Sun. People, they fear, will fall out of the recycling habit. Ritual is apparently more important than actual reuse.

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  1. If plastic, glass and paper recycling made economic sense there would be private recyling places that pay you for your load, like the metal recycler does in my town.

    “You are smarter than the government, so when the government pays you to do something you wouldn’t do on your own, it is almost always paying you to do something stupid.” PJ O’Rourke

    1. If plastic, glass and paper recycling made economic sense there would be private recyling places that pay you for your load, like the metal recycler does in my town.

      Private recycling places *with curbside pickup*. The metal recycling place in my town doesn’t do pickup but pretty much anyone can set a small stack of aluminum siding, copper piping, lawnmower, metal lawn furniture, etc. at their curb almost any evening and expect it to be gone by morning.

      1. In Baltimore City, they will even take it out of the walls for you after some idiot installed it the day before. That is how much they care about recycling.

      2. I put out an old Lanier color printer (est weight 55-60 lbs) right before I started washing my car yesterday afternoon (today is trash day). The junkman in his beat up pickup truck scooped it up before I was halfway done! While drying the car about 45 minutes later, I saw the second junkman cruise by in his beat up pickup with a bad muffler about 45 minutes later, not knowing what prize he missed—-sorry buddy, you snooze, you lose.

  2. Baltimore County residents’ have had their perceptions about where their glass ends up shattered.

    You are really proud about that sentence, aren’t you, Christian?

    1. Christian has a heart of glass.

      1. mucho mistrust not far behind

  3. “There are numerous issues with glass recycling, including increased presence of shredded paper in recycling streams which contaminates materials and is difficult to separate from broken glass fragments”

    Wouldn’t fire take care of the shredded paper?

    1. Yes and no. Melting the glass without abundant oxygen will leave carbon – a serious contaminant in glass manufacture if your goal is transparent glass. And even with lots of oxygen, you might get non-combustible contaminants from the clays, surficants and other chemicals in the paper coating, adhesive, ink, etc.

      None of those contaminants are insurmountable. Many are also present in the raw materials used to make new glass, after all. But they do affect the cost-benefit calculation. And when the economics of recycling are already questionable…

    2. Burning off the paper would produce a lot of CO2, of which we’re not good at capturing and disposing. And there would be a good bit of ash, too.
      What would we do with the sulfates, nitrates, chlorides, etc., that would be produced by acidification? It would be nice if they were all insoluble precipitates, but Mother Nature ain’t that nice.

      1. Most of them would be insoluble in molten glass, but as the above commenters pointed out that introduces other problems. I think you could most likely design a process that handles this through a multistep method (indeed, it’s probably already been designed, as I’m sketching in my head right now and it’s fairly straightforward).

        The real problem is that the energy and material costs of the process absolutely are greater than the value of the materials recovered. So I’m not surprised it’s not in use. And honestly, the volume of hazardous waste generated would probably outweigh the environmental value of the recycling in the first place.

        1. “The real problem is that the energy and material costs of the process absolutely are greater than the value of the materials recovered.”

          It’s only a problem if you are using the glass bottle once and then disposing of it to be recycled. Refundable bottles can be used perhaps a couple dozen times before they are rendered unusable and ready for recycling.

  4. Non-metals recycling can work very well at the large user level – businesses shredding paper, restaurants composting, etc.

    And it’s probable that toxic/hazardous waste (computers, batteries, etc) could be effectively diverted from the general waste stream by having a significant price tag attached to it (with perhaps the occasional random public hanging of violators) so it remains closed-loop. Might even make for a very useful blockchain use-case

    Other than that, it is all a colossal waste of time. Many Americans don’t even pick up their own dog’s shit when it is in someone else’s front yard and they watched the dog take that dump. It’s silly to expect them to sort through their garbage.

    It’s very possible that the total waste stream needs reducing – to avoid various sorts of leakage, pollution, externalities, etc. But it is not at all possible or conceivable that the American consumer can be assumed to be an adult part of that solution. So stop pretending they can be.

    1. Over the weekend, news broke that the county—which does not include the City of Baltimore—has not been recycling the glass it’s been collecting as part of its recycling program.

      And how – really – is this ‘news’ then? Looks like this county is nothing but suburbs of Baltimore. And from wiki – not one of those suburbs/towns/villages is even incorporated.

      IOW – no one living there has ever given a good goddamn about even the basic notion of self-governance at any level. There is no de Toqueville notion at play here (I often admired the infinite art with which the inhabitants of the United States managed to fix a common goal to the efforts of many men and to get them to advance to it freely).

      Of course nothing ‘govtl’ is going to work there. It’s a county full of bedroom ‘communities’. Hell if they couldn’t virtue signal about something, they’d have no reason for existence.

  5. Baltimore County Admits It Hasn’t Been Recycling Glass for 7 Years.

    Citations for every Baltimore residence are in the mail right now…

  6. Just so you know, they haven’t been recycling anything else either. But keep throwing stuff in that new bin, folks. It’s for the children.

    1. They’re recycling children??!?

      Oh my God…

      1. Read the sentence, Unicorn. Diane is clearly saying that crap thrown in the recycling bin is given to children. Fondly remembering Dan Akroyd’s Bag O’Glass.

  7. “There are numerous issues with glass recycling, including increased presence of shredded paper in recycling streams which contaminates materials and is difficult to separate from broken glass fragments, in addition to other limitations on providing quality material,” county spokesperson Sean Naron told The Baltimore Sun.

    By the way, if you believe in Global Warming Climate Change, then this is a Good Thing. It’s less energy intensive to just throw the stuff in the landfill than it is to perform the above tasks.

    Stop Climate Change: Stop recycling.

    1. I have always found it amusing that a 15-ton diesel garbage truck comes belching its way through my neighborhood every week to pick up my 10 pounds of plastic and glass recyclables. So good for the environment.

      1. …drives them around town, then processes them, ships a tiny minority of it to China which dumps most of that in a landfill, or as of late, sends it back across the ocean (2 trips across the pacific) and the rest then gets driven to the landfill. So sustainable.

        1. ” So sustainable.”

          Things like glass bottles can be used more than once and users can be incentivized to return their bottles with a returnable deposit. Bums and junkies can fill in the gaps by scavenging the streets for any neglected bottles. Much more sustainable, wouldn’t you agree?

      2. This is neither amusing nor ‘good for the environment.’

    2. “Stop Climate Change: Stop recycling.”

      This makes a lot of sense. The idea of recycling the bottle to make a new bottle for single use makes no environmental sense. It’s much better to return your empty to the place of purchase and get a refund. This is far less energy intensive than throwing it a landfill after a single use, and you won’t be out of pocket for the deposit either. There are many household items which we are happy to use over and over again, like forks, cups etc. I don’t think the urge to use something only once and dispose of it is so deeply ingrained that the habit can’t be overcome.

  8. So when Baltimore County determined recycling the glass was uneconomical, they should have told residents to put glass in the trash bin instead of the recycle bin (saving money for the County and citizens).

    But being Democrat Baltimore, they decided it is worth forcing people pay to show the county’s virtue. All they’re really showing, is they don’t care about the people, and are willing to harm them to falsely signal environmental cleanliness, that is actually less clean.

  9. My township official in charge of recycling is now decrying “aspirational recyling.” Seems everyone has bought into the idea and now dumps paper, plastic, metal and glass of all kinds into the recycling bins, no matter if it is acceptable or not. That means pizza boxes, tomato sauce jars, plastic grocery bags and all sorts of inappropriate items get picked up by a separate truck, taken to a sorting center, and eventually dumped in a landfill…at twice the price we used to pay when everything went to a landfill.
    We are supposed to rinse out recyclable food containers first – how much good clean water is wasted doing this compared to just throwing the jar in the trash?

    1. One challenge to recycling in the US is the immense amount of water it takes. The Environmentalists hammer entrepreneurs with massive permitting causes and law suits, while pushing everyone to recycle. Unless they have deep pockets, most smaller firms went out of business or sold out to the big boys, like Waste Management

    2. “We are supposed to rinse out recyclable food containers first – how much good clean water is wasted doing this compared to just throwing the jar in the trash?”

      What self-respecting religion doesn’t involve some sort of sacrifice?

      1. Name any worthy endeavor that doesn’t require sacrifice.

    3. ” how much good clean water is wasted doing this compared to just throwing the jar in the trash?”

      There’s no need to throw a glass jar in the trash. It can be used again.

  10. Most of these resources – silicone, metals, wood – were sourced from the land. I am a strong advocate for “giving back”!

    1. ashes to ashes dust to dust its teh cycle of life why they can’t accept that.
      I was talking to a liberal the other day and she was complaining about CO2 levels and I told her it would all recycle. she was not happy with my comment

      1. Just ask her why she hates plants. No CO2, no plants. No plants, no food for us or feed for animals. No animals, no food for us.
        Soon, no us.
        (of course, that is the actual objective of the global climate warming change crowd)

  11. Glass is made from sand, the most abundant substance in the world. There is zero reason to recycle it.

    1. When turning glass containers into other glass containers, the principal savings is energy. If you use cullet (crushed recycled glass) rather than raw materials (which as you point out are pretty abundant), you don’t have to reach as high temperatures for as long. You can use perhaps 30% less energy this way.

      There are other uses for recycled glass as well.

  12. Sounds like the county I live in, except I’m in central GA.

    They give us a big dark green bin for regular trash and a smaller bright green bin for recycling. So I dutifully put the glass and metal in the small bin for 3 years.

    Then one day I was off work and saw the garbage truck come by. They picked up the big bin and kept going. OK, I figured another truck would be by shortly to get the little bin. Yep, about 30 minutes later the same garbage truck came by and picked up the little bin.

    Now, I know its the same truck and crew, and I know that from my house to the landfill and back is way more than 30 minutes, so its not too hard to guess that they aren’t actually recycling diddly.

    A couple of phone calls later and I get told that the county didn’t renew the contract for recycling so they just picked up the bins and took both to the landfill.

    And like the suckers they are, the whole neighborhood still puts out both bins. Me? Fuck that, one bin one trip to the curb.

  13. This municipality is very close-mouthed about what’s recyclable, just referring us to their contractor, Waste Management, which essentially says everything is. But at least it’s voluntary, unlike New York City, where the tickets are a cash cow.

    The supermarkets collect plastic bags for recycling, but an employee recently told me they just get trashed.

  14. I dare say most programs landfill part of their intake and have since they started. I worked for a city that dumped it all, excepting aluminum cans. Peers in other areas confirmed this.
    This was late 80-90s, and I have no reason to believe anything has changed.
    Hi, I’m from the government. I’m here to help.

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  18. In trying to be green they create a situation where you have 2 trucks come through the neighborhood. One for trash and one for recycling only to find out the 2nd one is not recycling anything. 2 trucks for material going to the same place????? Government efficiency????????

  19. Don’t bother me with stinking facts. I thrive on my virtuosity of separating my garbage.

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  22. Recycling glass makes zero sense.

    It’s not even potentially hazardous to out in a landfill, as it doesn’t break down into any bad chemical components, which is at least a half assed argument with plastics. If it isn’t economical or energy efficient it’s just dumb. We have 1000s of years worth of dump space, so putting sand back into a big pile to chill there ain’t gonna do no harm.

    1. “Recycling glass makes zero sense.”

      Agreed. And the idea of driving perfectly reusable glass containers out to the countryside and burying them is less than zero. A typical glass bottle can be reused a couple dozen times before wear and tear take their toll.

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