That Glass You Think You're Recycling is Going to the Landfill

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Every two weeks, hundreds of Saline residents place glass jars and bottles in the recycle bin. Waste Management, the company hired by the city to collect our trash and recyclables, takes the glass and other items to a materials sorter who removes glass items and ships them to a landfill.

Saline City Councillor Jim Dell'Orco said the city's environmental commission spent much of its last meeting talking about the development.

Dell'Orco, council's liaison to the environmental commission, invited members of city council to join the commissioners on a tour of the materials recovery facility that receives, separates and prepares recyclable materials for marketing to end-user manufacturers. After taking the tour in November, Councillors Dawn Krause and Janet Dillon both spoke of their concern that glass wasn't being recycled.

Dell'Orco brought up the issue again at council's meeting Dec. 20.

"We put (glass) into our curbside containers with the understanding that we're doing our good stewardship of the environment by recycling our glass," Dell'Orco said. "And we've learned we've since learned that that glass is being crushed up and used a top layer in the landfill."

The city signed a five-year waste services contract with Waste Managemen in 2019.

Dell'Orco said the environmental commission is brainstorming ways to engage the Washtenaw Resource Recovery Management Authority to move this issue in the right direction. Saline joined the Washtenaw Resource Recovery Management Authority early in 2019 as it was negotiating the WM contract during a worldwide recycling crisis. The city pays $5,000 a year to belong to the authority with other cities and townships.

At the time, city council was told the authority might result in better contracts, the attraction of a materials recovery facility, and getting closer to "zero waste."

Dell'Orco said he hoped Theo Eggermont, the Director of Washtenaw County Public Works, might soon update the city on where the authority is with those goals.

"We'd like Theo Eggermont to come give us an update on where WRRMA is with establishing opportunities to work with a different type of (materials recovery facility) where we can actually accomplish the goal of getting glass recycled," Dell'Orco said.

In the meantime, Dell'Orco said, the environmental commission will talk to the public about what's actually becoming of the glass they place in recycle bins.

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