HRRA Announces Official Launch Of New Glass Recycling Program
EDITOR'S NOTE: The print version of this feature appearing on the front page of the September 10 edition incorrectly states that curbside glass recycling in Newtown is no longer in effect. The report below corrects that error and further clarifies key points about a new regional glass recycling initiative.
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The Housatonic Resources Recovery Authority (HRRA) — a regional, governmental, waste management, and recycling authority that serves 14 Connecticut municipalities, including Newtown — hosted a press conference at the Brookfield Town Hall August 26 to announce its new glass recycling program.
Newtown was part of the pilot program for the initiative thanks to a partnership between Newtown Public Works and the HRRA.
The new system will permit local residents to either bring glass recyclables to the Newtown transfer station, or continue putting qualified glass recyclables in their curbside recycling containers.
Fred Hurley, director of public works, told The Newtown Bee on August 30, “We have added a new low boy container at grade level to make glass deposits easier for the residents."
“The quality of glass that this produces cuts everyone's cost, because it becomes a valuable product instead of another solid waste expense in our household garbage stream," he added.
Hurley said there are no definitive plans to do a separate glass pickup curbside at this time but that is being studied.
"In the meantime [residents can bring] all ‘acceptable glass,’ which means unbroken beverage and food containers but not window glass, mirrors, or similar items to be deposited at the transfer station," he said.
During the briefing, HRRA Executive Director Jennifer A. Heaton-Jones personally thanked Hurley and Public Works Administrator Arlene Miles for their support with the glass recycling program.
Welcoming everyone to the day’s press conference was Brookfield First Selectman Stephen Dunn who shared that the new glass recycling program is “an important start and milestone for getting our recycling up the way it should.”
He then introduced Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) Commissioner Katie Dykes.
She explained that the DEEP and the HRRA have had a longstanding partnership where they work together to benefit the environment and taxpayers as well as to improve waste and recycling programs, which are in need of urgent attention across the state.
“I’m thrilled about the progress HRRA is making,” Dykes said about their programs and strategies.
She explained that glass is a state mandated recycling material and that while the state has made great strides with single-stream recycling, there is always more to be done, especially when it comes to glass.
“The improved Bottle Bill that was enacted by the legislature this year [and] signed by the governor… requires in-state processing of no less than 80% of the wine and liquor beverage containers that are sold in the state into furnace-ready cullet or byproduct that is melted or would otherwise be used in cement, glass, or fiberglass products by January 2023,” Dykes explained. “So, this innovated process HRRA is launching, separating the glass collection from everything else, is a great step in the right direction to help achieve that 80% goal and help solve our waste disposal crisis, but most importantly to reduce costs and do better for our environment.”
Good Vs Bad Glass
Bethel First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker expressed his gratitude for the partnership between the State of Connecticut and its municipalities with the creation of the Connecticut Coalition for Sustainable Material Management (CCSMM). He is a co-chair, alongside Dykes and Durham First Selectman Laura Francis, of the CCSMM, which aims to develop a set of waste reduction action items between the DEEP and municipalities.
“It yielded a tremendous working partnership between municipal leaders like my colleagues and HRRA and Commissioner Dykes’ staff. Quite frankly, none of this would be happening without her support and the resources that the DEEP put at our disposal to go through this process,” Knickerbocker said.
He also gave credit to Heaton-Jones, calling the new glass program “her brainchild.”
In addition to giving the context for how the partnerships played an important role, Knickerbocker also specified what glass is accepted and not accepted, because “not all glass is created equal.”
Many people, he explained, put everything in their single-stream recycling thinking they are being good citizens, but that there are actually some types of glass that are not recyclable and can contaminate other materials.
Knickerbocker described “good glass” as being virgin food-grade glass containers such as beverage, liquor, beer, wine, and soda bottles; pasta jars; jam jars, and pickle jars.
“Anything that is an original container that contains food, for the most part, is the good stuff. It can be recycled and remanufactured almost indefinitely. Everything else is ‘bad,’” he said.
He specifically cited bad glass as being broken mirrors, windowpanes, and broken drinking glasses, because they have “plasticizers in them that makes them not recyclable.” Those items will usually go to landfills, but many times they wind up ruining the good recycling materials.
“Broken glass will then contaminate things like cardboard and paper that would otherwise have recoverable value,” Knickerbocker said.
He asks that people bring the good glass to their town’s recycling centers or contact their private haulers to see if they can provide them with a separate container for glass. Newtown provides curbside recycling - including glass - to all households at this time.
“We do ask for people to not only separate the good glass but to make sure they take the plastic caps, the metal caps, the corks, and things that come with them... off. You don’t need to take off the labels. Keep it as clean as possible. Recycle it. Then it is going to go into the recovery centers,” Knickerbocker said.
He concluded his speech by mentioning that while some legislators could not be there in person at the press conference, State Representative Stephen Harding, State Representative Raghib Allie-Brennan, Senator Julie Kushner, and Senator Will Haskell have been very supportive of the glass recycling program.
Oak Ridge Waste and Recycling CEO John Decker spoke during the conference about the difficulties of recycling glass, specifically from an operational standpoint.
He told how years ago separating recycling used to happen at the curb with different bins and it was labor intensive for the haulers to make many trips. With people not participating as much as they hoped, they were able to make it a simpler process by doing single-stream recycling where all the materials could go together in one bin. They saw the volume of recyclable material and participation increase.
“But through all these years, there have been two things that have hurt the process,” Decker said. “One is contamination things in the material that just don’t belong – plastic bags, garden hoses, things of that nature – that are detrimental to the process.”
He continued, “The other thing that has become really detrimental to the process now is glass.”
Decker explained that broken glass can get into the moving parts of the trucks, it can affected the processing plants’ equipment, and it can get integrated with other recycling products. Not only does it then reduce that material’s value, but sometimes the broken pieces of glass have to be manually picked out.
Patrick Grasso, of Urban Mining Industries, also said a few words about how his company has a plant location in Beacon Falls, where they take glass and make a usable product.
“With Oak Ridge’s help, we have accepted and processed approximately 80,000 bottles over the [glass] pilot program already,” he said.
The product that they are making with the recycled glass is called Pozzotive.
Grasso explained, “Simply stated, Pozzotive is a high performance ground glass product that creates a stronger, longer lasting, low-carbon concrete and we are making it from locally sourced glass.”
Not only does this help find a home for unwanted glass, he says, but it is better way to make concrete, because it reduces the carbon footprint of the production to create cement.
Another partner of the new glass program that spoke was Andrew Crowley, director of operations at Strategic Materials.
“We are the largest glass recycler in North America. We operate nearly 50 sites in the US, Canada, and Mexico; and one of our facilities is in South Windsor, Conn,” he told the crowd.
At the Connecticut facility, they recycle glass to produce new glass bottles and fiberglass insulation. Crowley noted that he is extremely proud to be a partner of this program.
Closing the conference was Heaton-Jones, who thanked all the partners and elected officials that stood with her.
“I am very proud to have created this program for my member towns,” she said. “To date, we have collected 600 tons of clean glass from our pilot phase and I’m looking forward to increasing the number to 1,000 in the coming months.”
Heaton-Jones took a moment to recognize the residents who participated in the pilot phase of the program for making it effective.
“At the end of the day, the recycling program is only as successful as the residents who participate. We need to change our relationship with material and see it as a resource and not a waste. Our HRRA glass program is a more sustainable recycling solution and will contribute to a more circular economy,” she said.
After thanking everyone for attending, a brief Q&A portion was held.
Heaton-Jones encouraged those interested in learning more about the different towns’ recycling options to visit hrra.org and check out the “drop off centers” section. There is also a specific page for the glass guidelines.
Reporter Alissa Silber can be reached at email@example.com.