Recycling glass may be well intended but it may not make much economic sense, said Steve Shannon, an ecologist and municipal services manager at Austin-based Balcones Resources.
Several Fort Hood area cities are considering new mandatory citywide recycling programs, including Killeen.
Killeen stands to save between $210,000 and $420,000 by selling the city’s recycled materials through a new citywide mandatory program, according to a presentation by Michael Cleghorn, Killeen’s solid waste director.
Some of that revenue could be lost if the city chooses to allow glass in its recycling bins.
“We are certainly willing to take it but there is a cost,” said Shannon, whose company is in the bidding for Killeen’s recycling contract.
Balcones Resources provides recycling services for many cities and entities in the Austin area.
“We have several customers who mix glass into their recycling but they pay for it,” Shannon said.
Glass is made of sand, and sand is more ubiquitous than most other recyclable materials, he said.
“What makes recyclables valuable is their rarity,” Shannon said. “Trees are scarcer than sand.”
Shannon said it costs between $70 and $90 to process a ton of glass. That then is sold for around $10 a ton.
The value of other recyclables, including paper, plastic and aluminum, can generate $100 a ton.
“When you put glass into the mix it drags down the average value of the materials,” Shannon said.
Since glass is easily breakable, the safety concerns make glass an enormous and costly challenge for recycling facilities, where much of the processing is done by hand.
“There is a significant cost of getting all of those millions of pieces of glass out,” Shannon said.
Killeen recycling accepts glass, bottles and jars that have been drained and rinsed as part of its curbside residential pickup.
The city does not accept broken or treated glass, such as mirrors, window panes, drinking glasses, light bulbs or florescent tubes.
Shannon said the best city recycling programs isolate glass from other recyclables before putting them into bins by establishing drop sites across the city.
Killeen Councilwoman Elizabeth Blackstone suggested that, if the council adopts the plan, the city should establish drop sites at convenient locations across the city to encourage residents to recycle.
“I think a lot of people wouldn’t do it if they had to go far away,” she said.