January 2005

Sparkling Roads - It’s Glass Traction Sand...Notice

The snow is falling and winter is upon us. Although the snow covering the landscape is beautiful, driving on the snow covered roads can be a concern. Looking at all the white snow glittering and sparkling in the sunlight (much like pulverized glass sand), a couple of interesting applications for pulverized recycled glass have come to mind.

First is the use of pulverized glass as road traction material. Surprisingly this application offers a number of advantages over traditional road sand. For one thing, pulverized glass is superior road sand because it is a hard material that doesn’t break down. The local crushed aggregate used for road sand does break down which causes it to lose its ability to provide traction. Pulverized glass is also inert. This means that it will not leach anything into the environment. Why this is important? Let me give you an example.

In the nearby village of Cooperstown, New York (famous for the Baseball Hall of Fame), road sand is used in conjunction with salt to provide traction for driving safety. The sand source is a local aggregate material which is relatively soft and has significant lime content.

As the snow accumulates, bucket loaders are seen in the village shoveling the snow and loading it into dump trucks for removal from the streets and sidewalks. Once in the dump truck, the snow (mixed with road traction sand) is taken to a large pile on the outskirts of town.

When spring arrives the snow pile shrinks, causing the water and sand to run off into a local stream which leads to a small lake. The lime in the sand leaches out along the way. The bulk of this leached lime ends up in the lake which causes a change in its pH balance. This change causes a negative impact to the ecological balance of the lake.

State University of New York at Oneonta’s Biology Department analyzed samples of comparable local sand and recycled glass sand. They concluded that the glass sand was better for the environment since it was inert and would not chemically or physically impact the environment.

A related second use for recycled glass is as filtration material for drainage filler. Communities are becoming increasingly aware that there is a need to contain and treat the water that runs off from parking lots and other road surfaces before it reenters the natural environment. Pulverized glass’ inert characteristics make it an excellent substitute for local aggregate. In fact, pulverized glass is being used in a filter bed at the Albany County Airport as a secondary filter for final treatment of run-off water collected from the airport’s run-way.

The introduction of the pulverized glass into these applications could be met with some speculation or concern due to the word “glass”. This word makes people immediately think of “sharp” and “dangerous” and putting the word “crushed” in front of “glass” doesn’t exactly improve their comfort level. However, when properly pulverized, recycled glass is safe to handle or drive on.

The road department may be the first and most enthusiastic supporters of these uses, especially when the pulverized sand is available at less cost than the natural aggregate. Those road departments that have embraced it’s use have had overwhelmingly positive things to say. In some instances the biggest problem the road department has had with the material has been media coverage that leads citizens to come to misinformed conclusions that their tires, or worse, environment is in danger.

It’s important to keep the media focused on environmental advantages and to give them scientific research results that prove that this form of recycling saves the environment by both redirecting materials out of the landfill and by protecting the environment from chemical leaching. If that fails one can always throw in a few pictures of children or puppies playing in piles of recycled pulverize glass. I have some you can use.

If you are in the northern states, enjoy te winter and look for the opportunity to let recycled glass make your driving experience a safe and “good for the environment” experience. If you are in the warmer states, this may not be the recycled glass application for you, but stay tuned…I will write about using the pulverized glass for beach sand at another time.


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