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Recycling Glass in Florida

Benefits of Recycling Glass

Recycling offers many benefits, from making a profit to reducing waste and pollution. A wide range of items can be recycled, including plastic, tin cans, and glass bottles. Glass has a major benefit over other recyclable materials because it can be recycled over and over without any loss in purity or quality. Research shows that using recycled glass cuts energy costs about 2 to 3 percent for every 10 percent of recycled glass used. It also reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

However, not all glass is created equally. If glass is used as packaging for food, beverages or cosmetics, then it is probably able to be recycled. Typically, colored glass is recyclable, such as wine bottles, beer bottles, and soft drink bottles. If glass is used as decoration, then it is probably not recyclable.

Is Glass Recycled in Florida?

Florida has a state goal of recycling 75 percent of all waste by 2020. In 2015, the state’s recycling rate was 54 percent. Only three Florida counties hit the 75 percent mark this past year. Despite the state’s push for higher recycling rates, glass, which can often be recycled, ends up in Florida landfills, even when placed in recycle bins. There are two main reasons for this:

First, contaminated glass cannot be effectively recycled. In Broward County, all recyclables are dumped into the same recycling bin. Though this was done to make recycling easier, this method often leads to contamination. It is estimated that up to 30 percent of recycling in the county ends up in the landfill because of this issue. Though Palm Beach County residents sort their recycling into different containers, food and other contaminates still has an effect, leading to an estimated 11 percent of recyclable materials being thrown out.

Second, it is often not economically beneficial to recycle glass. Ana Wood, Polk County’s director for waste and recycling, stated that none of the glass the county accepts as “recycling” is being recycled because “no one wants it.” Trends in the market have had a detrimental effect on glass recycling, as the demand for recycled glass is at an all time low. Unlike metal, which skyrocketed in price a few years ago leading to an increase in recycling and even thievery, glass demand has been on a steady decline and is considered relatively worthless. The only real push for glass recycling has come from environmentalists.

Florida is not the only state that fails to recycle glass. In fact, only ten states in the USA currently recycle glass, including California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Oregon and Vermont. This is not due to profitability, but because of bottle-deposit laws. The Florida legislature previously toyed with the idea of passing a bottle-deposit law in the 1970s and again in recent years, but has not done so. As a result, people are not required to recycle these materials. There is no profitability in glass recycling, so even when residents do toss a glass bottle in their recycling bin, it likely ends up in the landfill anyway.