In its January 31, 2006 letter to the Stewardship Ontario Blue Box Funding Review Committee, OI Canada claims, “Glass recycling in Ontario is failing.” The letter contends that the Blue Box program is yielding less and less “recyclable” glass because of an increasing trend towards single stream curbside collection, which downgrades recovered glass to end uses lower than new glass packaging.
Glass recycling in Ontario is not failing, despite such claims. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the verb “recycle” in broad terms: “To convert waste into reusable material.” It seems OI Canada has chosen to narrow the proper definition of recycling in order to promote its own objectives. OI Canada disregards all other forms of glass recycling that are not bottle-to-bottle.
What OI Canada refuses to acknowledge are any of the positive contributions that the blue box program has made to Ontario’s glass recycling. In 2004, Stewardship Ontario (September 2005) reported the recovery rate of glass from the province’s curbside programs was 63 per cent (119,683 tonnes from a generation amount of 189,634 tonnes), a four per cent increase from 2003. Once the final numbers are in for 2005, there is a good chance that the recovery rate for glass will be higher.
In Toronto, where two single stream facilities are in operation, the amount of glass recovered in 2005 increased by more than five percent over the amount recovered in 2004. Similarly, York Region and the Region of Peel are operating single stream facilities. Preliminary information indicates consistent glass recovery rates when compared to previous two stream collection systems. Unfortunately, regardless of the movement toward single stream collection, the majority of mixed broken glass (MBG) recovered from the blue box does not currently meet the specifications of OI Canada and therefore must be marketed elsewhere.
Recovery rates certainly do not equate to recycling rates. In the past, MBG was mainly used as an aggregate substitute or for the other low-end applications that OI Canada has criticized. However, with alternative recovery systems such as deposit return for the LCBO far from realization, Stewardship Ontario has chosen to stimulate higher end markets for MBG by allocating $500,000 towards the Glass Diversion Fund (managed by ReMM). To date, the following six projects have received funding:
Strategic Materials (formerly NexCycle): Enhanced processing of MBG to supply the fiberglass industry;
*Try Recycling (London): Evaluate the use of MBG as an alternative for winter sand and filtration media;
*Ottawa Valley/Rancor: Use of MBG as an alternative aggregate substitute for a roadway into the recycling facility;
*Industrial Products: Evaluate the use of MBG to produce a glass-lime brick;
*Niagara Recycling: Use of MBG to produce sand-blast and filtration media; and
*Poraver (Siscor): Investment in a multi-million dollar Ontario facility that will use MBG in a patented process to produce spheres that can be used in a variety of high end applications including ceiling tiles, stucco, countertops and acoustic systems.
The projects being undertaken by these companies are stimulating alternative end uses for MBG that have already improved market conditions for Ontario municipalities. For example, it’s projected that the Region of Peel and the City of Toronto will collectively save more than $300,000 compared to 2005 by diverting their mixed broken glass to markets supported by the Glass Diversion Fund. Expansion of these and other initiatives are likely to further improve market conditions for MBG from Ontario’s blue box.
Atul Nanda is with ReMM Hamilton, Ontario. Contact Atul at email@example.com. With files from Margaret Wu who is a co-op student in the Environment and Business Program at the University of Waterloo.