While municipalities and MRFs are struggling to contend with the challenges of recycling glass in popular single-stream collection programs, enterprising businesses could potentially profit by implementing creative glass recycling systems and connecting with primary and niche glass markets.
Let’s take a closer look at the business challenges associated with recycling glass as well as the advantages and some possible markets.
Challenges and advantages of recycling glass
There is no denying there are substantial obstacles facing businesses when it comes to processing recycled glass. To profit from glass, companies must overcome:
- The higher maintenance costs for sorting and processing equipment, as glass is abrasive.
- The high volume needed to generate profits.
- Demanding specs required by consumers in need of materials free of ceramics, metals, and organics.
On the flipside, a business equipped to overcome the above challenges can reap the sizable benefits of entering the supply-side of the glass market:
- Glass is infinitely and 100% recyclable! The quality and purity of glass is unaffected during remelting. Unlike some recycled commodities such as plastic, glass does not degrade with successive reuse.
- For glass and packaging manufacturers, there is a 3% savings in energy cost for every 10% cullet (furnace-ready recycled glass) used in place of virgin materials. Cullet has a lower melting point than the raw materials used to make glass.
- While bottle-to-bottle glass reuse is the most efficient, there are still many secondary and niche markets for recycled glass.
Markets for recycled glass
Recycled glass has a diverse array of applications and is used in many big industries, including the packaging, automotive, construction, medical, and energy sectors. Applications and products include:
- Bottle-to-bottle reuse, such as jars for food packaging and glass bottles used to hold wine, beer, liquor, and soft-drinks.
- Appliances and electronics, including ovens, televisions, computers, and smart phones.
- Construction materials, particularly aggregate materials used for paving parking lots, roads and highways, and airport runways.
- Housing materials, such as tile and flooring, countertops, and insulation.
- Landscaping products, such as glass mulch and decorative patios and pathways.
- Fibre optic cables.
- Solar-energy glass and wind turbines.
Businesses that could benefit from recycling glass
Though focusing on recycled glass as a commodity isn’t impossible, it’s probably best as a part of a portfolio of profit-generating programs, products, and services. Beverage bottlers and glass packaging manufacturers could possibly close the supply loop and bolster their bottom lines through creative and efficient collection programs. While small restaurants and bars may not find glass recycling programs economically feasible, chains or large-scale food and beverage companies may have the location numbers to generate profitable volumes of recycled glass.
If your company generates significant volumes of recyclable glass, contact us! Berg Mill Supply has decades of experience in the recycling industry and can develop material efficiencies through creative methods of recycling systems implementation and management.