Collected R.I. Glass Now Being Recycled

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

JOHNSTON, R.I. — Glass collected curbside in Rhode Island is now getting recycled. The Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation (RIRRC) began shipping a limited quantity of glass to a processor and sorter in Massachusetts about a month ago. Now all glass is being shipped there, unless it is unusable.

The state Department of Environmental Management (DEM) mandates the collection of glass for recycling. But the high cost of shipping to a recycler has prevented glass collected at the curb from getting remade into new bottles. Since 2003, glass brought to the state recycling facility had been crushed and used as daily cover for the landfill. In 2012, the General Assembly passed a bill that prohibited the use of glass in daily cover in order to address odor problems at the Central Landfill. Since July, all glass has been buried with other trash.

Recycling glass in Rhode Island is cost prohibitive due to low demand and the distance to ship it. Sand, the raw material for glass, is inexpensive and plentiful. Shipping used glass to a bottle maker exceeds the cost of making new bottles.

In fact, demand for glass bottles from beverage makers has dropped dramatically in recent years as plastic-bottle use has proliferated. Beer companies are now the most consistent user of glass bottles, but aluminum cans are quickly becoming the more preferable container.

The expense to ship glass, according RIRRC officials, will eat into the profits that are ultimately shared with Rhode Island's 39 cities and towns. RIRCC currently isn't paying a tipping fee on the glass, just transporation costs to the Franklin, Mass., processor. If a tipping fee is ever charged, the cost could become too prohibitive to continue the program.

The best solution to paying for glass recycling at all is to keep it local, said Krystal Noiseux, recycling program manager at RIRRC. “The long-term fix for Rhode Island's glass remains having a glass manufacturer open right here.”