Why Glass Should Not be Included in Recycling Bins

by Benoît Bleau on behalf of the Hemmingford Environment Committee (translation : Susan Fisch) February 2022

We all understand why recyclable materials should be recycled to create new materials, rather than be disposed of in the garbage. Recycling bins have become part of our daily lives. In Hemmingford, we have been recycling glass, paper, cardboard and metal since 1990. With the arrival of the blue Recycling bins, we can now recycle additional materials: most types of plastics, coloured plastics, all kinds of paper, most wrappings and multi-layer containers.

It is easy to do and practical. We just put everything in the blue Recycling bin and Bingo! We can have a clear conscience that we have done our bit.

But there is a major problem with this. Not all of the materials collected in the blue bins are being recycled. In fact, for different reasons, a big part of the materials collected are being wasted. Today, we are going to discuss what happens to the glass. Glass is a wonderfully easy material to recycle as it can be completely recycled to make new glass, ad-infinitum, so long as it is not contaminated by other materials, such as ceramics, pebbles, porcelain, etc.

Unfortunately, the majority of the glass collected in our blue Recycling bins, is for different reasons, not being recycled. It is presently mainly being used to cover garbage in landfill sites, or to make access roads in landfill sites. Furthermore, the glass put into the blue Recycling bins, once broken, can contaminate the other recyclable materials such as paper, cardboard and soft plastics, rendering them unacceptable for recycling as well!

Luckily, there are a few alternative solutions. We all know about the consignment of beer bottles, aluminum cans and plastic beverage bottles. It is a highly efficient system and it keeps a lot of these containers out of ditches and landfill sites. In fall of 2022, there is a plan to enlarge deposit and consignment to include all beverage containers from 100ml to 2L, whether they are made of plastic, glass or metal. In a second stage of this plan, multi-layer cartons will be added. But glass is not only used for beverages. What about pickle jars, jam jars, mayonnaise, vitamins…

Several municipalities in Quebec are being proactive by making accessible to their population, containers specifically designated for glass, separating clear glass from coloured glass at the source (verre-vert.ca). The glass collected is then sent to 2M-Resources in St-Jean-sur-le-Richelieu which prepares the glass for future glass fabrication at Owen/Illinois in Montréal. This way, 100% of the glass collected gets properly recycled and is used to make new glass containers. In our MRC, no such voluntary glass depositories have yet been set up. Let’s ask the Municipalities of the Village and the Township of Hemmingford to set up such containers to allow the glass we collect to be properly recycled. This would also keep other recyclable materials in our blue bins from being contaminated, thus allowing them to be completely recycled as well.

We cannot stress the importance of the 3-Rs enough. First of all, Reduce. Manufacturing objects creates greenhouse gases. By reducing our consumption of these, buying less objects, results in producing less greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Secondly, RE-use. Giving a second life or a second use to an object, does not create new greenhouse gases. And finally, Recycling. When you recycle, and the materials being collected are being used to fabricate new ones, it uses far less greenhouse gases than when you have to use primary resources.