December 2005

"Glass on the Run"

What is a rural community supposed to do? They want to collect and recycle glass, or at least give the members of the community an opportunity to drop off glass for recycling. The volumes are not huge but the glass is heavy and transporting it to some distant processor can be costly. A group of communities in Montana and Virginia came up with an innovative solution. They got a mobile glass pulverizing system and now they are processing glass on the run.

The glass is accumulated on site and the mobile glass processing system, that is owned and operated in a cooperative manner by several municipalities, is set up at the different sites to turn the pile of broken glass into fine sand and gravel aggregate. For example, Shenandoah, Page, Warren, Clarke and Frederick Counties in the state of Virginia will work together to process their glass into a sand-like aggregate which will replace a gravel material whose costs has increased to about $15 per ton. This is used as a drainage material in the construction of pipe bedding, collection layers and other applications requiring a good gravel material for drainage applications.

Montana is a big state! Creative processing and uses for glass recycling is absolutely necessary. Brian Spangler program manager, Montana Department of Environmental Quality started “thinking outside the box” some time ago and had a vision for securing the funding and cooperation between several municipalities to bring mobile glass recycling to the state of Montana. Brian Spangler’s program formed a partnership with the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT). The MDT changed their specifications for road base which will allow ten percent 3/8 inch minus glass aggregate to be added to the road base and a pilot project is scheduled for the spring 2005 at Montana City Interchange. In addition, the 3/8 inch glass aggregate has been used of pathways in the Helena community garden.

This will change the way glass is collected along with public perception providing the quantum shift in how glass is viewed, collected, and processed. The glass pulverizing unit is color blind and can even take ceramics and make them into something useful with value. No need to sort by color.

To have your own “glass on the run” system, it may take some planning. It is advisable that one entity have primary responsibility for mobile glass pulverizing unit since it only makes sense that a system with many moving parts has a plan for care and maintenance.

What communities are going to be next? As the news spreads, other small town and cities will want to check out this mobile solution. The recycled glass will turn into something new and interesting. Is it sand? Is it sparkly gravel aggregate? Just tell them its recycled glass processed by a special process…”Glass on the Run.”

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