With the rattling and screeching sounds of the L train above, I pulled the red wagon behind me along the streets in my Chicago neighborhood. I was on a mission to find as many discarded bottles as possible. At five years old, I was already a seasoned trader. Trading bottles for cash was the way I funded my stamp collection. If I was lucky, and found enough bottles, after buying stamps, I would splurge and buy a bar of the finest chocolate from Pennsylvania for a nickel.
Before WWII, refillable glass bottles were expensive to make and beverage industries had incentive to have their bottles returned. As technology evolved and new containers became cheaper “No Deposit, No Return” was stamped on bottles, and consumers readily embraced the convenience of disposables.
Growing concerns about litter resulted in some states introducing bottle deposit bills, but they have been met by opposition by the beverage industry and grocers. Currently a handful of states have bottle bills, but most do not.
Utah does not have a bottle bill. However, there is a company that is diverting glass from the landfill. Recently I was able to ask a few questions to Rosemary Washington, Momentum Recycling Community Outreach and Master Recycler.
How long has Momentum been recycling glass?
Washington: Momentum has been recycling glass since 2012. We service the Wasatch Front from Logan to Provo and from West Jordan to Park City, even as far as Jackson Hole, WY.
How much glass is recycled by Momentum in a year?
Washington: We currently process about 1,200 TONS of glass per month, so that’s a whopping 14,400 TONS per year!
What kind of glass can be recycled? Are there any kinds that cannot?
Washington: Most of your household glass can be recycled: bottles, jars, broken windows. The few exceptions that cannot be recycled include light bulbs, mirrors, automotive windshields, Pyrex, ceramics and porcelain.
Does the glass need to be separated by color?
Washington: We take all colors of glass, and it does not need to be separated. Momentum has an Optic Scanner that does all that for you.
Is it necessary to remove labels or wash the glass before recycling?
Washington: Don’t waste water taking off labels or cleaning out jars. The recycling process takes care of that. However, you must remove lids and corks. Lids can go in your recycling can and Momentum collects corks, so you can bring those in every 6 months or so or as needed.
How do I find locations in the community where I can bring my glass to be recycled?
Washington: If you go to our website: momentumrecycling.com , you can find the nearest drop-off location to you. We have them all throughout the valley. Our newest drop-off is conveniently located at the Wine Store at 280 Harris Avenue in SLC.
What other options are there for recycling glass for homes, apartment complexes, or businesses?
Washington: We provide Curbside Pickup for those residential customers who enjoy that convenience. We currently serve all of SLC, and many areas in Salt Lake County. We are continually enlarging our service area for curbside pickup. We now have 6,000 curbside subscribers.
Why is it important to recycle glass rather than throw it away?
Washington: Besides the jobs that recycling creates, glass is the one recyclable that can be recycled over and over. It takes so much less energy to recycle a bottle than to make one from raw materials. It is estimated that recycling one bottle can save enough energy to power a tv set for 1.5 hours. Not only that, but CO2 is dramatically decreased by recycling. Given Utah’s notoriously bad air quality, this should be a motivating factor for everybody with lungs. ANYTHING we can do to increase Utah’s air quality is worthwhile. Worth noting is that glass does not break down in the landfill, so every glass jar that’s thrown in there is driving the landfill that much closer to capacity. And, let me tell you… a new landfill, plus all the gas to haul the trash even further west, will not be cheap. Let’s do what we can to extend the life of the landfill we do have.
Can you describe how you became interested in recycling?
Washington: I read a book several years ago called Garbology and I have been a recyclopath ever since! I was excited to get a job with Momentum 5 years ago when it was just getting off the ground. Partnering with Jason Utgaard, Momentum’s Marketing Manager (and owner of the website thespotteddoor.com which sells products made using recycled materials), we have worked very hard to get the curbside program going. Like I mentioned earlier, we are up to 6,000 now from the 200 we were at 5 years ago. I’m proud of the work we’ve done with the help of some dynamic college students.
To find a drop off location near you, or to sign up for the curbside service go to the Momentum Recycling website.