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O-I: Pittsburgh’s pop-up glass recycling program is a win-win

Glass should never be trash – it’s infinitely recyclable and 100% recyclable

While recycling glass is a no-brainer, it’s not always as easy as putting your used bottles and jars in the curbside bin. When waste haulers serving the Pittsburgh metro area stopped accepting glass in curbside recycling bins at the beginning of 2019, the Pennsylvania Resource Council (PRC) came up with a solution that continues to grow in popularity.

When families found out they wouldn’t be able to recycle glass curbside any more, they demanded a solution. They wanted to recycle their glass containers. Justin Stockdale, director at the Pennsylvania Resource Council, reached out to O-I Glass and CAP Glass with a solution to the problem: pop-up glass collection events.

CAP Glass, one of the nation’s largest recyclers of glass, committed to collecting the glass and hauling it to a processing facility. O-I, one of the world’s leading glass bottle manufacturers, worked on a financial contribution to support the PRC’s work to organize and promote the events.

“At O-I, we talk about people leading change,” Jim Nordmeyer, Vice President of Sustainability at O-I says. “[These were] individuals who said, ‘We can do this,’ and then went out and made it happen.”

Recycled glass is one of four ingredients in glass packaging, along with soda ash, sand and limestone. That’s why recycled glass is so valuable for glass manufacturers. The more recycled glass that goes into a batch for new glass, not only do more raw materials stay in the ground, but recycled glass requires less energy and creates fewer emissions during the manufacturing process.

Recycled glass collected at the Pittsburgh-area PRC pop-up events are used at O-I plants across the eastern U.S. to manufacture new glass containers. Some locations were so well-attended, the pop-up bins transitions to permanent ones. Early PRC pop-up glass recycling events collected 100 tons a month. The PRC pop-ups, along with the permanent locations, are now collecting upwards of 250 tons of glass a week. Not only is the pop-up glass recycling program collecting nearly as much as recycled glass as curbside previously did, but it’s getting a better yield to the plants because these travelling bin drop-off sites only accept glass containers – there’s no contamination from other materials.

Glass is the perfect material for the circular economy. Keeping glass in the loop is not only good for communities, but it’s good for the glass manufacturers who depend on it, it’s good for jobs, and it’s good for the planet. Sometimes, it just takes a little teamwork to make it all come together.

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