As we move into summer the consumption of glass packaged goods increases exponentially until just after New Year’s Day. At that point, local recyclers are faced with a reduced yields due to low grade Christmas wrapping paper contaminating the paper stream and tones of crushed glass contaminating every other stream of potential revenue. In reality what should be a time of high production and high profit turns into high production and potential losses. Most recyclers will still have a stock pile of glass from previous years with no place to go.
As I eluded to in the article presented in Inside Waste magazine in March of 2016, glass is almost infinitely recyclable back into glass but the simple market dynamics make that outcome near impossible to achieve. The cost of separation and processing glass in small quantities is high, distance to the glass production plant, cost of transport is high and there is, at this stage, competitively priced virgin material available.
Standalone operators such as PAR Recycling on the central coast of NSW have worked extremely hard in their own right to find alternative markets and have invested in a modular glass washing plant to ensure they can deliver a product that is reasonable to process and suitable for applications in pipe bedding, backfill, road base, paver construction. Asphalt and other low cost applications. However there seems to be no will on the part of the relative authorities to encourage the use of this material.
Glass is a global resource issue and it can so readily be made available as sand replacement in so many applications. There must be a place for government to assist in disrupting the current market model by offering rebates, incentives or pathways for organizations to use a percentage of recyclable resource in low risk applications.
Technology is available to help process glass in relatively low volumes at reasonable costs with a focus on pathogen kill and removal of syrups, sugars and other residual substances. Two systems most commonly produced by our McLanahan Corporation to remove pathogens and liquid contaminants from crushed glass are the modular relocatable glass wash plant and the rotary glass dryer. Wash plant designs combine washing , sizing and dewatering techniques to clean up glass and make it ready for transport within 2 -3 hours of washing. Of course water should be treated so that it can be re used in the process.
Thermal dryers are also very effective at getting the glass quickly to temperature suitable for pathogen kill and for syrups to be burned off. These systems are slightly more complex but offer the benefit of being able to use multiple fuels such as biogas, syngas, biomass, woodchip, diesel etc.
I would like to refer to recent observations made in the Newcastle Herald by Dr. Alice Howe of Hunter Council. Dr. Howe highlighted the leadership opportunity for local councils to prioritize glass as a sand replacement in works projects across multiple jurisdictions. Collaboration is also required by the collection and processing organizations in order to allow scalability so that the costs of crushing, cleaning and processing waste glass are minimise on a per ton basis.
The Hunter region is home to many innovative tech businesses such as ours and by collaborating together there is real opportunity to develop globally relevant solutions for this problem. However at the risk of laboring a point, finding sustainable markets are the key to success.