Solid Waste & Recycling

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The Next Cycle

Glass recycling company NexCycle Industries is adding extra staff as the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) gets ready to implement the province's new deposit-based bottle return system.


Glass recycling company NexCycle Industries is adding extra staff as the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) gets ready to implement the province’s new deposit-based bottle return system.

NexCycle Industries, an American glass recycler with a plant in Guelph, hasn’t taken glass collected in the city’s blue bags for the past two years due to contamination levels that made them practically worthless to wholesale glass buyers.

But when the LCBO’s redemption program starts on February 5, things will change. The LCBO’s redemption program will be handled by the Beer Store, which will pay customers the 10 or 20 cents redemption fee — depending on the container — that the liquor store will add to the price of alcohol beverage containers.

NexCycle’s network of plants has the contract to process all of the 240 million liquor bottles the government hopes Ontarians will recycle annually. (The province already recycles some two billion beer bottles each year, according to the Beer Store.)

The Guelph plant — the company’s only Canadian facility — expects to process between 40,000 to 60,000 tonnes of liquor bottles in the first year of the LCBO’s program. That means the plant will add 12 people and a third shift.

Fibreglass insulation makers are NexCycle’s biggest customer, according to the plant’s manager Scott Van Rooy. (Recycled glass makes up about 60 to 70 per cent of the material used in insulation.) NexCycle also sells glass for use in floor tiles, as an additive for reflective highway paint, household products and a range of other uses.

“We’re going to handle whatever comes in. We’ve got customers for it,” Van Rooy says. “Any material we receive, especially from this program, definitely has a home on a high-end use. That was stipulated in the contract…We’re not just putting it in a landfill or road fill.”

Unlike beer bottles, none of the LCBO bottles will be refilled (at least, not initially). Domestic winemakers need to consider the challenges of bottle reuse and no one’s sure how to organize foreign winemakers. Some of the glass, however, will be melted down for new wine bottles. [Editor’s note: the Wine council of Ontario has developed an RFP for bottle refilling.]

City hall staff think the deposit-refund program could save some maintenance costs at Guelph’s waste processing facility if it means residents keep their bottles out of blue bags and return them instead. Processing glass is hard on the facility’s equipment, staff say. But the city isn’t expecting a complete drop in glass placed in blue bins or bags since the program only applies to liquor and wine bottles and not other glass containers.

“We anticipate that some glass will be taken out of the (blue bag) stream but there will still be a substantial amount of glass that will be processed at the materials recovery facility,” spokesperson Laurie Watson said in an email.

Guelph currently sends its glass to landfill. The Ministry of the Environment says the program could save about 80 million bottles a year from such a destination. NexCycle already takes beer bottles recycled through the Beer Store, which has a bottle return rate of 97 per cent. Amber bottles usually get re-used as beer bottles, while more valuable clear glass might be sold off to other industries.

Clean, top-end recycled glass can be sold for $20 a tonne, Van Rooy says — about the price of a nice bottle of wine. He says it took consumers in British Columbia about four years to get their return rate on a new liquor bottle redemption system up to 85 per cent.

“People will say ‘I’ve only got one bottle, so I’ll throw it in the blue box,'” he says, adding, “It takes a while to change people’s habits.”

This article is adapted from a story written by Greg Mercer that originally appeared in the Guelph Mercury. Contact Greg at gmercer@guelphmercury.com


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