Glass is being recycled again at Douglas County’s solid waste transfer stations.
The bulk of the county’s recycling program, like most across the region, came to a sudden halt in May 2018. That’s when China, the major market for West Coast recycling programs, stopped taking in America’s trash. It cited problems caused by the dirty plastic recyclables that Americans kept sending them.
The county doesn’t have a solution yet for plastics but it has found one for glass.
Douglas County Solid Waste Manager Gabe Forrester said the glass is being repurposed by the solid waste department itself.
The glass is crushed at the landfill and then used as an aggregate substitute. The crushed glass is a good substitute for gravel as a filtration layer for the vaults that collect landfill leachate, the liquid that seeps to the bottom of landfills. The glass will help remove heavy metals and sludge before the leachate is shipped out for treatment.
The crushed glass is also being used as a foundation layer underneath roads and when constructing ditches and dikes.
Forrester said he heard about similar re-purposing programs in Italy and Germany and then found it was being done in some American solid waste programs as well.
The Roseburg transfer station next to the Douglas County landfill is taking glass recyclables now, as are the county’s transfer stations at Reedsport, Myrtle Creek, Oakland, Glide, Yoncalla and Canyonville.
The recycling bins are designed for depositing bottles or jars one at a time through holes sized for those items. The recyclables should be clean and free of caps or metal lids. They should not be placed into the bins in plastic bags.
The recycling service is free of charge.
Forrester said recycling is a huge part of the solid waste industry that needs to be brought up to par.
“That’s my number one focus right now is source separating materials and finding better ways to dispose of them, environmentally safe ways,” he said.
The new glass recycling program will save some landfill space, but it’s not the biggest problem, Forrester said.
“Glass is a small portion of the landfill. Most of it is plastics, which is the big recycle business that went away with China not taking recyclables any more,” he said.
Forrester said plastics recycling remains a tough one to solve. He anticipates the next successful recycling comeback will be with cardboard.
He said what he needs next is a facility where the cardboard can be baled.
The cardboard would likely be hauled to Eugene and then recycled into more cardboard boxing or paper products.
Forrester also said he wants to work on recycling food waste, another big filler in the landfill that could be repurposed for local agriculture.
Glass isn’t the only material you can recycle at the landfill now, though. The county’s still accepting tin and aluminum cans, scrap metal, oil and batteries.
Forrester said he believes members of the public want to recycle more. The county just needs to figure out how to facilitate it. As the county began phasing in the new glass recycling program over the past month, he said he’s received thank you letters and phone calls from county residents, and even been stopped on the street.
“It’s pretty good feedback and they’re excited to see what’s going to come in the future as well,” he said.