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So You Think You're
Recycling Glass? Part 2
Now that we have your attention, allow us to continue the story. As
promised, we will name names and provide detailed documentation for
your perusal. Once you've read an installment, please comment on the
What Do You Think? page for others to read. We think you will find the
story provocative at least.
Glass never has been and likely never will be economically viable to back ship outside.
It is a heavy material made of sand and is of little value. Sustainable recycling requires
it to be re-manufactured and used right here in Alaska. John Dean of Environmental
Recycling Inc. (ERI) established the glass plant at Pt. Woronzof in the late 1990's. He
experimented and came up with several new products which could sustain
themselves without outside funds. Glass processed into sand blasting media makes
economical sense up to 700 tons, or 1,400.000 pounds a year. Shipyards like it
because it does not result in toxic or hazardous discharges as do some of the
imported mined media. It does have limited scouring power and thus will not ever be a
total replacement. It remains the only developed market but it is a steady in and steady
out flow of glass.
A few years after demonstrating its long term viability, Environmental Recycling Inc.
sold the glass plant to Polar Supply with the understanding the new owners would
move it to a permanent site and ERI would continue to focus on creating and
expanding organic recycling and re-manufacturing through composting at Anchorage
Regional Composting Facility, as it had since 1993. John Dean, the owner of ERI,
developed terminal cancer and unable to expand the glass markets or continue
composting, he began looking around for an appropriate successor. The individual
chosen was Pete Kinneen, who was offered both the composting facility and the glass
facility. Kinneen agreed to take both if no one else stepped forward to take the glass
plant. Polar Supply had already been involved in distributing the re-manufactured
glass, and expressed interest in purchasing the glass plant and exploring additional
markets. Polar purchased the glass plant, Kinneen took over the composting facility,
and John Dean was able to attend to his needs with peace of mind. One important
factor was discussed to which all parties were agreeable: the glass plant needed to
Instead of expansion, as expected, Polar Supply reduced the glass plant operation,
citing multiple instances of equipment failure, temperature challenges, lack of funds,
etc., while at the same time the flow of glass was growing. The markets were never
developed, the glass plant was never moved, and a seemingly incompatible dual use
of the site continued. In 2007 Polar Supply sold the glass processing plant, still
located at the Anchorage Regional Composting Facility, to EK Industries. What
happened to these two sets of owners was sad and has led to this unnecessary
failure in glass recycling.
It appears to us that both glass plant owners were seduced by "free money" in the form
of grants from public funds to shore up losses. Under these terms you don't get free
money unless you are losing money. Suddenly, lack of expansion of the glass markets
makes sense. Sales of the product were made in house to themselves and multiple
trips were made overseas to seek markets, etc., etc. We think they were manipulated
by bad actors wearing white hats. At best, they were deceived by those with a vested
From the Anchorage Assembly on down to each of us who wash and transport our
glass to drop off bins, we have all been told that the glass is being recycled, that
markets are being developed, that all is well. To our discredit, we believed it. Other
than the occasional "we must temporarily stop taking glass" sign at the drop off bin,
there was no indication that progress was not being made. Nor was there any mention
to the pubic that what glass they did recycle was being contaminated intentionally by
glass from bars, with all of the "co-mingled" cardboard, plastic, and food waste. In the
meantime, we are seeing public funds spent lecturing us to soak our empty peanut
butter jars overnight in hot water so they will be clean for the recycle bin. Finally, just
days ago, we are told that glass recycling will stop after January 5th "until the market
recovers and the economics improve" (Mary Fisher, ALPAR Executive Director). The
deception continues, but at least the flow of glass contaminating the compost at Pt.
Woronzof will cease and that is good. Meanwhile, the amount of glass recently hauled
in from all over Anchorage and co-mingled with garbage would take literally years, not
months, to recycle and use in the one existing market.
|Installment II - by Pete Kinneen
|Manipulation of the Community
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A question came in from some of our readers: Are there other sustainable markets for
glass in Alaska? The answer is yes, but first we should be clear on the definition of
sustainability. To us, sustainability means that subsidy, public or otherwise, is not
necessary. Glass comes in, is processed into some other product people are willing
to buy for a high enough price to pay all of the expenses and is not dependent on
purchase at more than market value for the item.
One example of a sustainable market involves the powder residue that results from
the glass grinding process. This powder can be used in creating dental appliances. Of
course, we all recognize that the demand is small and a couple of peanut butter jars
full would saturate the Anchorage market for quite a while. Small volume niche
markets may be fun, but ultimately only large volume, high value products will result in
a measurable increase in the amount of glass the community can divert from the
Another example of a sustainable market, but at a larger volume, is glassphalt. (See
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glassphalt) This product may be of some use to the
Anchorage community, and we have heard it is being used, or has been used, on one
or both of the military bases.
We look forward to the time that the community can openly discuss these possibilities
and others. Before getting into discussions of realistic new markets, we would like to
more fully explore what has led to this complete recycling failure rather than just repeat
the same mistakes. If we discontinue taking the bar glass, we suspect the existing
market is sustainable on the clean glass from the drop off sites. Once the markets are
developed, then we can take additional glass from the bars, with some changes in
contamination levels, of course. Perhaps the liquor industry will want to participate, but
they will likely need to contribute a portion of their "avoided cost" (see "The Values of
Consumer Material"). No more free dumping, boys and girls.
Installment III will explore the current inequities of garbage disposal in Anchorage and
path to recycling change will become apparent.