Sparkling Roads - It’s Glass Traction
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
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
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