By Alix Noble
A low market and a high contamination rate has kept Carney's Waste disposal from recycling glass back into bottles. This has a Whistler environmental group crying foul on the validity of a recycling program where the materials don't end up where the public thinks they do.
All deposited glass has been going to Sabre Construction, to be used as road-bed material, for about a year now, said Linda Carney of Carney's Waste disposal. It's only within the last month that the glass recycling igloos have lost their colour-coded stickers.
"At first we were trying to separate brown and green, but because of the contamination it was next to impossible," Carney said.
Carney's originally did ship brown glass to the city to be reprocessed, but because the loads were contaminated by other materials like dirt and Malibu bottles, she said, her company was being charged to dump them.
But Carney's kept the separate recycling bins even after they stopped shipping glass to the city. "We were trying to train people so that if a market ever developed, they would be used to separating," said Carney, "but the market isn't there. It's a lot of work and it's not necessary."
This has local environmental group AWARE steaming. "This is where the environmental movement is on a collision course with the recycling movement," said Joe Lotzkar of AWARE. Grinding up glass to use in place of gravel, he said, is just another form of landfilling and is not recycling in the true sense of the word, where bottles would be turned back into bottles.
"It isn't recycling," Carney agreed, "it's reusing — glass is originally made out of sand." Carney pointed out that many recyclables are altered in the second round, like steel which is melted down and used to make different products.
Lotzkar argues that if the public believes their carefully sorted trash is not being recycled as they think it should be, people will lose interest in spending time to separate recyclables.
"Recycling must be done above the board, this is just an excuse for consumption. We need to cut down on consumption and cut down on recycling if it's a sham."
According to Art Den Duyf, president of Sabre, no glass has actually made it to a roadbed, yet — the glass has just been piling up since Sabre started receiving it. He estimates it will take another 2-3 years before there is enough glass volume to put it through the grinder. It will then be used as gravel in roadbeds approved by the municipality.
In 1995, Carney's received 69.4 tonnes of glass from commercial enterprises, home pickup and the igloos. That's 11 per cent of the estimated total glass that Whistler produced.
A market for glass does exist, at $10 a tonne for clear and brown glass and $5 for green at Surrey's ETL recycling centre, where Carney's used to send their brown glass. ETL cleans and crushes glass and then sells it back to manufacturers to make more bottles.
Carney's is negotiating a recycling contract with the SLRD under its new solid waste management plan. That plan will likely include an attendant at the recycling drop-offs. Don Mazankowski, vice-president of marketing for ETL, said that he has seen a very low success rate with unmonitored collection due to contamination. That was the problem with Whistler's loads when Carney's dropped them at ETL, said Mazankowski. A monitored plant would reduce the contamination of glass, he said, but nonetheless, Carney's has no plans to start recycling glass again.
"The transport costs are too great," said Carney. "For all the oil and gas to get it to Vancouver, they're not doing anything more sophisticated or helpful to the environment than turning it into sand. It's just as sound to take it down the road and grind it for Whistler's roads," she said.
Although Mazankowski said that he does receive recycling loads from clients who have around the same tonnage as Whistler, the efficiency of sending glass to ETL depends on the specific situation. Sending 5 or 6 tonnes from Whistler once a month might just barely cover the freight costs, and expend more energy than using it locally, Mazankowski said.