Anchorage Edges Closer to Glass Recycling Solution

An up close look at some of the bottles that Central Recycling has relocated to their facility from the old glass recycling business at Port Woronzof, that closed in 2009. Photo courtesy of Central Recycling Services.

Compared to just a few years ago it’s easier to recycle in Anchorage. Since 2008, curbside recycling of paper, cardboard and plastics has spread throughout the municipality. And there are drop-off locations for other things from construction materials to electronics. But there’s one thing that people can’t recycle that they used to be able to, glass. KSKA’s Daysha Eaton looks into what’s holding up glass recycling in Anchorage.

A worker at Central Recycling holds some glass that has been crushed to 3/8" size or smaller bits, as for road bed as required by the municipality. Photo courtesy of Central Recycling Services

Located in an industrial area off Post Road between Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and downtown, Central Recycling is set to begin recycling glass through a partnership with the Municipality of Anchorage.

“Imagine just a giant hammer spinning at high speed in a box and you dump the concrete and the glass in the top of it.”

One of the co-owners of Central Recycling, Shane Durand, is describing a crushing machine that sits at the edge of a dusty patch of land covered with piles other things they recycle like old tires and concrete. In 2009, the Anchorage business that was recycling glass went under. Two years later, the municipality awarded Durand’s company up to $85 ,000 in grants to figure out how to recycle glass, do research and buy the needed equipment. The idea was to create a public-private partnership to bring glass recycling back to Anchorage. Durand’s machine is crushing concrete now, but it can also crush glass, which he has piles and piles and piles of just sitting around waiting to be into a gravel like products that can be used to build roads and fill around pipes.

“You’ll find bottles of just about everything. There’s a Kirkland tequila bottle and a Yellowtail wine bottle, some organic juice jugs.”

Durand says he’s been working on the project for more than a year, and he’d hoped to be producing products for this year’s construction season, but instead the project has been stalled. If you ask him why, he’ll tell you this.

“Right now we have the equipment to do it. We have the facility to do it. We have a market for the material. Currently the stumbling block is getting accepted specifications within the municipality for them to allow its use.”

Durand says he’s spent months trying to come up with a formula that would work. Then last week, the Municipality’s public works department finally approved the use of 10 percent glass in a road bed product, but Durand requested 50 percent. He’s skeptical he can make enough money with less. Ron Thompson is the Director of the Municipality of Anchorage Public Works Department. He is in charge of making the code and specification changes that can set things in motion. He says 10 percent recycled glass is industry standard in road beds and they’re worried that using a higher percentage of glass in could cause problems.

A photo of the crusher that Shane Durand of Central Recycling Services has outfitted with an air density separator so that it can be used to recycle glass into potential road base, pipe bedding and/or structural fill. The air density separator was in part paid for by grant money from the Municipality as part of the public-private partnership to bring back glass recycling to Anchorage. Photo by Grant Goulet.

“We looked at the industry standard, what’s being used all over the country. And that’s what we came up with, from 10 to 15 percent. We have a lot more moisture a lot more freezing that goes on here, we need to make sure that the moisture doesn’t have a problem underneath our road surfaces. And there’s just not a chance. I don’t know of anywhere in the country that they’ve approved 50 percent.”

Recycling coordinator for the Municipality of Anchorage, Donna Mears says glass has never been a high priority for Anchorage. She explains that’s because glass is not a big percentage of the total waste the city produces.

“So the most we’ve ever recycled here in Anchorage is about 15 hundred tons a year. Last year we had going into the landfill over 308 thousand tons going into the landfill.”

Mears says there might need to be a provisional project, say in a parking lot, to test out using a higher percentage of glass before final approval. But she’s confident that eventually Anchorage residents will be able to recycle glass this way because residents want it.

“Glass recycling is very apparent to residents because as we’re in our kitchens and we’re cooking and we’re, you know, having a drink after dinner having that glass bottle go into the trash instead of into the recycling is very significant.”

But don’t start saving up your bottles just yet. Mears says you won’t likely have a place to drop them off until sometime later this year.

Piles of Glass at Central Recycling that the private recycling company is using to create recycled glass test products like road bed fill and pipe bed fill. Photo courtesy of Central Recycling Services


Daysha Eaton is a contributor with the Alaska Public Radio Network.

Daysha Eaton holds a B.A. from Evergreen State College, and a M.A. from the University of Southern California. Daysha got her start in radio at Seattle public radio stations, KPLU and KUOW. Before coming to KBBI, she was the News Director at KYUK in Bethel. She has also worked as the Southcentral Reporter for KSKA in Anchorage.

Daysha's work has appeared on NPR's "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered", PRI's "The World" and "National Native News". She's happy to take assignments, and to get news tips, which are best sent via email.

Daysha became a journalist because she believes in the power of storytelling. Stories connect us and they help us make sense of our world. They shed light on injustice and they comfort us in troubled times. She got into public broadcasting because it seems to fulfill the intention of the 4th Estate and to most effectively apply the freedom of the press granted to us through the Constitution. She feels that public radio has a special way of moving people emotionally through sound, taking them to remote places, introducing them to people they would not otherwise meet and compelling them to think about issues they might ordinarily overlook.

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