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Learn more about glass recycling

Recycling recovery rate at Regina recycling facility 96%

  • Emterra’s rate of effectiveness in processing recyclables at its Regina recycling facility is one of the highest in the industry. Despite being in operation for only a year, the plant is already achieving a 96 per cent recovery rate of the recyclable materials delivered there for processing. This is among the best processing efficiency rates in the country.

Committed to a ‘recycling first’ philosophy

  • On a nation-wide basis, Emterra, which operates 14 recycling facilities, is committed to a ‘recycling first’ philosophy and consistently innovates to find new end markets for hard-to-recycle materials; this include glass bottles and jars collected in the recycling system. To that point, Emterra is currently in discussions with a potential additional local end-market in Saskatchewan for various types of glass; however, until discussions are complete, it is inappropriate to release further details.

Why is glass collected for recycling in Saskatchewan if there is no market for it?

  • In today’s marketplace, glass is increasingly being replaced by plastic, aseptic and gable top containers (e.g., paper boxes used for drinks, sauces, soups, milk cartons, etc.) as well as multi-layer pouches (e.g., for sauces, baby food, juices, etc.) as preferred packaging for many consumer food and beverage products. However, glass containers (refundable bottles and non-refundable bottles and jars) are still in use and continue to be accepted in recycling programs across the country. Glass packaging typically represents less than 10% of recycled materials.
  • Emterra supports SARCAN by collecting and delivering intact refundable containers to them in compliance with their requirements for all bulk delivery customers. SARCAN ensures the containers are recycled by taking them to Potters Industries in Moose Jaw. (See question and answer below regarding how this recycled glass is reused.)
  • While every attempt is made to separate intact glass bottles and jars for recycling at the Emterra facility, the fact is the majority of glass containers break as they make their way from the curb to the recycling plant. This is true everywhere across North America. By the time glass containers are put into recycling bins, compacted by collection trucks, and then offloaded onto the plant receiving floor, most of the glass is already broken into small pieces and mixed in with other non-recyclable materials such as food left in unrinsed jars, bits of paper, stones, dirt, and bits of ceramic, porcelain, plastic, etc. Further, even without these additional materials being mixed in with the broken glass, it is very difficult to market broken glass because the colours (e.g., green, brown, blue, clear) are mixed together. Separating this glass into individual colours once it's been mixed together extremely difficult.  All of these factors combine to make the recycling of broken glass a challenge.
  • Despite the lack of local markets for small pieces of multi-coloured glass mixed with other non-recyclable materials such as food left in unrinsed jars, bits of paper, stones, dirt, tempered glass, and bits of ceramic, porcelain, plastic, etc., Emterra is working to develop new technology at its plant that will tackle the job of better separating broken glass from the other non-recyclable materials. The intent is to produce an end-product that will meet the specifications of a potential additional new market(s) when it is developed.  (See question and answer below about why there is an advantage in putting glass in landfill.)

What happens to glass containers taken to the recycling facility?

  • The intact refundable containers are collected and delivered to SARCAN in compliance with their requirements for all bulk delivery customers. SARCAN ensures that all glass containers are properly recycled by taking them to Potters Industries in Moose Jaw. (Listen to CJME’s interview with Kevin Acton of SARCAN: www.cjme.com/story/sarcan-breaks-down-issue-broken-glass/416563).
  • Intact non-refundable glass containers are stored at Emterra’s recycling facility while we develop additional local end markets.
  • Broken glass that is mixed with other non-recyclable material (e.g., food left in unrinsed jars, bits of paper, stones, dirt, and bits of ceramic, tempered glass, porcelain, plastic, etc.) is currently sent to landfill along with other materials put into recycling bins that are not recyclable such as patio furniture, garden hoses, clothing hangers, etc.

How is recycled refundable glass reused?

  • Refundable glass that is delivered for recycling to Potters Industries in Moose Jaw is crushed and ground down to form small spheres. Saskatchewan Highways incorporates the spheres into the paint used on highways and it’s that glass that makes the lines shine at night.
  • Green and brown glass is made into insulation in Alberta. (See question and answer below about why there is an advantage in putting glass in landfill.)

Why does glass break during the route to the recycling process?

  • By the time glass containers are put into recycling bins, compacted by collection trucks and then offloaded onto the plant receiving floor, most of the glass is already broken into small pieces. During the transportation process the broken glass gets mixed with non-recyclable materials such as food left in unrinsed jars, bits of paper, stones, dirt, tempered glass, and bits of ceramic, porcelain, plastic, etc. As these materials move with other recyclables along the processing lines, they are screened out and put aside with other items that are not accepted in recycling programs such as patio furniture, garden hoses, clothing hangers, etc. Emterra is unable (and not obligated) to recycle these materials and they are delivered to landfill.  (See question and answer below about why there is an advantage in putting glass in landfill.)

Isn’t it bad to put glass in landfill, it never breaks down?

  • According to Daniel Benjamin, Senior Fellow, Property and Environment Research Centre, Bozeman, Montana who has conducted research into recycling, putting glass in landfill is actually beneficial because it doesn’t break down. It contributes to long-term stability and helps make the space suitability for outdoor activity use, such as golf courses, when the landfill is closed. - CBC Radio Saskatchewan interview, September 11, 2014

Will broken glass from recycling programs be recycled in the future?

  • Separating shards of glass of many different colours from non-recyclable materials is a very difficult challenge; however, Emterra is currently working on the design and engineering of a new system that, when it is completed, will tackle the job of better separating this tough-to-recycle mixed broken glass from other, non-recyclable materials such as food left in unrinsed jars, bits of paper, stones, dirt, tempered glass, and bits of ceramic, porcelain, plastic, etc.