Compared to just a few years ago it’s easier to recycle in Anchorage. Since 2008, curbside recycling of paper, cardboard and plastics has spread throughout the municipality. And there are drop-off locations for other things from construction materials to electronics. But there’s one thing that people can’t recycle that they used to be able to, glass. KSKA’s Daysha Eaton looks into what’s holding up glass recycling in Anchorage.
Located in an industrial area off Post Road between Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and downtown, Central Recycling is set to begin recycling glass through a partnership with the Municipality of Anchorage.
“Imagine just a giant hammer spinning at high speed in a box and you dump the concrete and the glass in the top of it.”
One of the co-owners of Central Recycling, Shane Durand, is describing a crushing machine that sits at the edge of a dusty patch of land covered with piles other things they recycle like old tires and concrete. In 2009, the Anchorage business that was recycling glass went under. Two years later, the municipality awarded Durand’s company up to $85 ,000 in grants to figure out how to recycle glass, do research and buy the needed equipment. The idea was to create a public-private partnership to bring glass recycling back to Anchorage. Durand’s machine is crushing concrete now, but it can also crush glass, which he has piles and piles and piles of just sitting around waiting to be into a gravel like products that can be used to build roads and fill around pipes.
“You’ll find bottles of just about everything. There’s a Kirkland tequila bottle and a Yellowtail wine bottle, some organic juice jugs.”
Durand says he’s been working on the project for more than a year, and he’d hoped to be producing products for this year’s construction season, but instead the project has been stalled. If you ask him why, he’ll tell you this.
“Right now we have the equipment to do it. We have the facility to do it. We have a market for the material. Currently the stumbling block is getting accepted specifications within the municipality for them to allow its use.”
Durand says he’s spent months trying to come up with a formula that would work. Then last week, the Municipality’s public works department finally approved the use of 10 percent glass in a road bed product, but Durand requested 50 percent. He’s skeptical he can make enough money with less. Ron Thompson is the Director of the Municipality of Anchorage Public Works Department. He is in charge of making the code and specification changes that can set things in motion. He says 10 percent recycled glass is industry standard in road beds and they’re worried that using a higher percentage of glass in could cause problems.
“We looked at the industry standard, what’s being used all over the country. And that’s what we came up with, from 10 to 15 percent. We have a lot more moisture a lot more freezing that goes on here, we need to make sure that the moisture doesn’t have a problem underneath our road surfaces. And there’s just not a chance. I don’t know of anywhere in the country that they’ve approved 50 percent.”
Recycling coordinator for the Municipality of Anchorage, Donna Mears says glass has never been a high priority for Anchorage. She explains that’s because glass is not a big percentage of the total waste the city produces.
“So the most we’ve ever recycled here in Anchorage is about 15 hundred tons a year. Last year we had going into the landfill over 308 thousand tons going into the landfill.”
Mears says there might need to be a provisional project, say in a parking lot, to test out using a higher percentage of glass before final approval. But she’s confident that eventually Anchorage residents will be able to recycle glass this way because residents want it.
“Glass recycling is very apparent to residents because as we’re in our kitchens and we’re cooking and we’re, you know, having a drink after dinner having that glass bottle go into the trash instead of into the recycling is very significant.”
But don’t start saving up your bottles just yet. Mears says you won’t likely have a place to drop them off until sometime later this year.