Glass to Cash

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As a Bozemanite I live 700 miles from the nearest glass remanufacturing center. In Golden, Colorado glass bottles are melted and reused to produce new bottles. That is a lot of miles and gallons of gas away. Not many would argue that it makes economic or even environmental sense to truck the stuff across country. Nonetheless, we still hear that recycling is the right thing to do.

Certainly, glass can be used in other ways. The nearby town of Livingston grinds up bottles to replace gravel to be used in landscaping and bedding materials. A new firm in Bozeman, Ecomatrix Solutions, has advertised its need for recycled glass for manufacturing “sustainable” cement to be used in countertops and architectural panels. The problem they’ve encountered with the Livingston glass is contamination from grime and paper labels. They are setting up a new supply channel to resolve the issue.

Locals that want to recycle glass can remove labels and wash their used bottles. Ecomatrix will pick up the cleaned glass at no charge. They may even provide a product discount or cement pot in return for the efforts.

“If we’re collecting it clean, de-labeled and all we have to do is reduce it to the sizes we need, it’s saving energy, it’s savings all across the board,” says Ecomatrix founder Jon Cross. Energy savings for Ecomatrix, yes, but energy used by others.

The costs and benefits of recycling vary over time and space. Instead of generically teaching kids to recycle more, perhaps it would behoove us to help them question why, where, and how we recycle. This might just encourage new innovations for reuse instead of spending more resources to recycle for the sake of recycling.

Originally posted at Environmental Trends.

Holly Fretwell is a Research Fellow at PERC and an adjunct instructor at Montana State University where she has taught  introductory economics, macroeconomics, natural resources and environmental economics. She works with the Foundation for Teaching Economics, giving workshops for  high school teachers to improve their skills in teaching and...
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