"Why can’t my glass be picked up with my curbside recycling?"
Simply put, broken glass is unsafe and can contaminate your valuable recyclables.
However, there's more to say about safety and contamination so we took the time to "break" down the answer for you below.
The City of Omaha uses a single-stream recycling collection process for residential recycling, which means that you don’t have to separate materials like cardboard and paper from the rest of your recyclables. But because we do not have to separate out our recycling, what we put in our bin matters. It's not only important just to recycle, but it's most important to recycle the right materials in the right way.
When our recycling goes to the processing facility, it gets sorted manually and mechanically. Plastic goes one way, cardboard and paper another – all these materials are individually sorted, organized, and baled together by their material.
Adding glass into this mix really messes things up.
Collecting glass in the same bin with your other recyclables can cause the glass to break when the recycling truck compacts the material, creating tiny sharp shards that get embedded into the other materials. This is called contamination and it means that the pure recyclable material you took the time to collect is now tainted, degrading its quality and recyclability. Contaminated materials are no longer recyclable or marketable and will ultimately be sent to the landfill.
Another issue is that broken glass is a safety issue for humans in the recycling process. The waste haulers who pick up your curbside green bin and the recycling sorting staff who manually pick up and sort your materials will come into contact with these sharp, broken shards of glass. No one wants to throw a bin of broken glass over their shoulder and into a truck or carefully pick out pieces of crushed glass along a quick-moving line.
So, how can you recycle glass the right way?
Collect glass in a separate bin from your other recyclables. Once you have a full bin you can take your glass to any of the 10 glass recycling drop-off locations around the city. The glass collected in these recycling containers is sent from Omaha to Ripple Glass in Kansas City where it gets cleaned, crushed, separated, and ground into cullet, which is then turned into new glass bottles and insulation.
Visit the City's Wasteline website for a list of the 10 glass recycling drop-off locations around the city, and start recycling glass today!
Written by Jennifer Patrick, Keep Omaha Beautiful Communications Coordinator | September 17, 2019