Arlington officials are increasingly finding that recycling some items has become a bit of a pain in the glass.
The county is encouraging residents to recycle metal, plastics, paper and cardboard like always, but people could soon be discouraged from adding glass to the mix.
“The county is conducting an analysis on glass and will likely suggest removing it from household and county facilities recycling streams,” said Katie O’Brien, a spokeswoman for the county’s Department of Environmental Services. “We anticipate sharing our findings and providing guidance to residents in mid-to-late November.”
While Arlington pays $4.66 per ton to process recycled materials, compared to $43.16 per ton to dispose of trash. The cost of recycling is typically offset by the sale of those raw materials. But the difficulties of glass recycling mean the material disproportionately weighs down the total value of Arlington’s haul.
According to a newsletter put out by the Department of Environmental Services, glass comprises 22.4 percent of recycled goods in Arlington but is the only material that comes in at a negative value for Arlington on the recycled material market. Aluminum cans are valued at $1,520 per ton while glass’s recycle value is negative $12.50.
The high cost comes from the lack of nearby facilities able to process glass and the high cost of separating it from other recycled materials. In meetings with the County Board, County Manager Mark Schwartz said most of the collected glass is already incinerated or sent to a landfill despite being marked for recycling.
In the meantime, Arlingtonians are encouraged to seek aluminum containers for beverages first, plastic bottles second and to avoid glass if possible.
Photo via Department of Environmental Services