People in Baton Rouge who are accustomed to putting empty bottles and jars in recycling bins may soon have to just throw them in the trash.
The Metro Council will consider approving a measure later this month that would end glass collection and processing services effective Nov. 1.
The city-parish recently negotiated a three-year extension of its 10-year contract with recycling provider Progressive Waste Solutions so it will have time to develop a strategic plan for trash and recycling, said Susan Hamilton, the city-parish’s director of recycling.
Progressive picks up recyclable materials throughout East Baton Rouge Parish, except for the cities of Baker and Zachary.
Hamilton said Progressive would need to upgrade cleaning equipment and secure markets to sell to in order to continue collecting glass.
That would cost $735,000 per year, she said, which the city-parish feels is cost prohibitive. The measure to end glass services will be introduced to the Metro Council on Wednesday, and members will vote on it after a public hearing on June 24.
Part of the problem with glass is contamination. East Baton Rouge has had single-stream recycling for about a decade, meaning residents don’t have to separate types of materials.
“The plus side of that is recycling rates rose by 50 percent when we converted to that system,” Hamilton said. “But the downside to that is that there’s more contamination” from pieces of paper, plastic and trash that is sometimes mistakenly thrown into recycling bins.
Contaminated glass can be cleaned with proper equipment, which Progressive’s facility on Tom Drive in Baton Rouge does not have, said Bob Kneis, south Louisiana area manager for Progressive. The bigger issue, however, is a lack of a market for glass.
“The glass market in general across the whole country has virtually depleted,” Kneis said. “There is not good resources or buyers for the material, putting us in a situation where we really don’t have a way to get rid of the material we’re collecting. ... We can’t continue to collect something if we have no one to sell to.”
Recycled glass can be used not only for new containers and bottles but also in road construction and sandblasting operations. Because glass is heavy, though, transportation costs are often prohibitive, Kneis said.
Progressive has many recycling contracts in Louisiana, Hamilton said. New Orleans and Jefferson Parish don’t collect glass, and it is being phased out around Louisiana and the nation, she said.
Last year, 1,065 tons of glass were collected in East Baton Rouge, which represents less than 10 percent of the 15,211 tons of recycling collected in total. About half of that amount is paper, including newspapers, paper and corrugated cardboard.
“There’s actually still a strong market for everything except for glass,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton hopes glass can be added back into the recycling stream in February 2018, when bids go out for a new contract. She wants to work with Progressive to put containers around Baton Rouge so people can still recycle glass until then.
“It’s going to be a huge disappointment to the residents who are used to it and identify glass as one of the primary materials to recycle and all of a sudden have to send them to a landfill,” she said.