One of the original recyclables, glass in its many forms has been returned and reused for decades. Consumer glass containers can endure nearly endless recycling, and collecting used glass generates income for municipal recycling programs all over the world. Before getting into the glass recycling business, there are some logistics issues to tackle, and important basics about glass quality and type to keep in mind.
Know Your Recycler
Contact the local or statewide recycling agency and inquire about current prices and receiving policies for scrap glass. The Glass Packaging Institute maintains a handy state-by-state list of recycling centers, including their names, addresses and phone numbers.
Source Reyclable Glass
Your basic task when joining the glass recycling stream is to intercept used glass before it gets into a landfill, where the labor and materials that went into the original material are simply wasted. Since the national glass recycling rate is only 30 percent, there are opportunities to source glass in communities that don't have a recycling program, or among businesses that don't sort or return their used glass. Investigate businesses that have already established themselves in this niche, such as Waste-Not Recycling. Talk to homeowners' associations to propose regular curbside pickup. Meet with commercial non-recyclers to work out rebates or revenue sharing for their recyclable glass, and to establish regular collections or place a permanent collection bin on the premises.
Handling and Preparing Recyclable Glass
Check for needed local permits and insurance requirements. You'll need to rent or purchase hauling equipment and bins. Recyclers sort glass by color, as companies that use recycled glass set strict color standards and don't want to mix different colors in the manufacturing stream. Non-container glass needs to be separated, as does broken glass. Broken glass with mixed colors poses a problem for recyclers and end users. In addition, the glass will have to be cleaned and decontaminated before it's transferred to a buyer. MSS Optical Sorters and other heavy equipment manufacturers offer machines for these labor-intensive tasks.
An index posted on the Recycler's World website in mid-2015 listed more than dozen categories of scrap glass. Scrap glass is classified by thickness, color and type, including post-consumer container, mirror, plate, lab, light bulbs, windshield and automotive, flourescent lights and borosilicate. This subscription website offers spot prices that recycling centers may use as a reference for the amount they'll offer for your collected glass, as well as other recyclable materials such as scrap metal, plastic waste, wood waste, tires and rubber, paper and textiles. The Glassgo Exchange Network links buyers and sellers in an online marketplace, and also provides an interesting Scrap Glass Recycling Composite Index, similar to a stock index, that tracks the recent trend in prices.