Recycling depots across the Yukon will not be accepting non-refundable glass products such as pickle jars after Nov. 30.
Depot representatives explained during a press conference Wednesday the market for recycled crushed glass is so soft that even recycling depots down south can’t make money on the product because of handling and transportation costs – not unless the glass recycling factory is next door.
All glass products in the Yukon with the exception of beer bottles are currently crushed and trucked to the landfill for ground cover, they explained.
They said all the glass they handle currently – wine bottles, pickle jars, liquor bottles, pasta jars – end up in the landfill as crushed glass.
The pickle jar is still going to end up in the landfill; it’s just going to get there through the regular waste stream and not in the back of the P & M Recycling or Raven Recycling truck, they explained.
They said once that pickle jar gets run over a couple of times by the piece of heavy equipment they use to compact the landfill, the result is going to be the same.
It’s just not economically feasible to handle the non-refundable products, especially when they end in the landfill just like all other glass products, they insisted.
They explained that when they handle and crush the refundable wine bottles, the liquor bottles and the juice bottles, they are being compensated through the surcharge on products under the Beverage Container Recycling program.
When they handle the pickle jar, or thousands of pickle jars, they don’t receive a dime, they explained.
They said the savings in operational expenses they will see by no longer handling non-refundable glass is not going to be huge by any means. But there will be savings, and in the world of recycling depots, every bit counts, they agreed.
Pat McInroy of P & M Recycling said the market for recycled material has fallen substantially across the board in the last three years.
McInroy pointed out when he got into the recycling business 20 years ago, for example, they were being paid $400 for every tonne of recycled cardboard. Today, they get $10 for the same tonne.
Twenty years ago, it cost $850 to ship a truck load down south. Today, it’s somewhere between $2,200 and $2,600, he pointed out.
“It’s a tough time in the industry right now,” McInroy said. “This is the first time we have said we are not taking a certain product.”
McInroy said the recycling business is like a balancing act. On one hand, P & M is making money with recycled aluminum cans, but for most of the plastic products they recycle, they’re not making a penny, or very little.
Doing away with handling non-refundable glass is part of balancing the business model with no real impact to the waste stream because it’s all ending up at the same place – the landfill, he said.
Joy Snyder, the executive director of Raven Recycling, said Raven was approached by a glass recycler down south interested in taking Raven’s crushed glass.
Once they ran the numbers, it just didn’t work, she said.
Snyder said the market prices for recycling are so low right now that depots down south have been forced to close.
There are niche opportunities for crushed glass such as the local company that uses it in making counter tops, but the quantities are small, she pointed out.
Snyder said Yukoners should remove the lids from the glass jars they throw away now because they are recyclable.
Rinsing out the jar is also beneficial because any organic residue left in the jar will give off off greenhouse gas or end up leaching through to the ground water, she explained.
She said the reycling depots put the Yukon government on notice a couple of months ago regarding the decision not to handle non-refundable glass.
The glass bin at Raven Recycling will become another bin for styrofoam after Nov. 30, she said.
Snyder said recycling styrofoam does pay for itself, but just barely.