One of the original recyclables, glass in its many forms has been returned and reused for decades. Consumer glass containers can endure nearly endless recycling, and collecting used glass generates income for municipal recycling programs all over the world. Before getting into the glass recycling business, there are some logistics issues to tackle and important basics about glass quality and type to keep in mind.
Know Your Recycler
Contact your local or statewide recycling agency and inquire about current prices and receiving policies for scrap glass. The Glass Packaging Institute maintains a handy state-by-state list of recycling centers, including their names, addresses and phone numbers. Also, check with your state's environmental agency to learn about local and state regulations for recycling centers and if any permits are necessary.
Source Recyclable Glass
Your basic task when joining the glass recycling stream is to intercept used glass before it gets into a landfill, where the labor and materials that went into the original material are simply wasted. Since the national glass recycling rate is approximately 33%, there are opportunities to source glass in communities where glass recycling companies do not operate, or among businesses that don't sort or return their used glass.
Investigate businesses that have already established themselves in this niche to get ideas on how to set up your business. Talk to homeowners' associations to propose regular curbside pickup. Meet with commercial non-recyclers to work out rebates or revenue sharing for their recyclable glass based on the market's current scrap glass price and to establish regular collections via a permanent collection bin on the premises.
Handling and Preparing Recyclable Glass
You'll need to rent or purchase hauling equipment and bins. Recyclers sort glass by color since the glass cullet market, those companies that use recycled glass to manufacturer new products, sets strict color standards and doesn't want to mix different colors in the manufacturing stream. Sorting the glass by color is key as mixed colors poses a problem for recyclers and end users.
In addition, the glass will have to be cleaned and decontaminated before it's transferred to a buyer. MSS Optical Sorters and other heavy equipment manufacturers offer machines for these labor-intensive tasks.
Scrap Glass Price Listings
The Recycler's World website lists a wide range of scrap glass and cullet types and grades within the market's glass recycling companies. Scrap glass is classified by thickness, color and type, including post-consumer container, mirror, plate, lab, light bulbs, windshield and automotive, fluorescent lights and borosilicate, a type of glass found in heat-resistant bottles, jugs and cookware. This subscription website offers spot prices that recycling centers may use as a reference for the amount they'll offer for your collected glass, as well as other recyclable materials such as scrap metal, plastic waste, wood waste, tires and rubber, paper and textiles.
The Glassgo Exchange Network links buyers and sellers in an online marketplace, and also provides an interesting Scrap Glass Recycling Composite Index, similar to a stock index, that tracks the recent trend in prices.
Founder/president of the innovative reference publisher The Archive LLC, Tom Streissguth has been a self-employed business owner, independent bookseller and freelance author in the school/library market. Holding a bachelor's degree from Yale, Streissguth has published more than 100 works of history, biography, current affairs and geography for young readers.