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November 2, 2017

Glass Recycling: Breaking through with Local Solutions

Glass recycling can be a tricky business. Glass is highly abrasive on equipment, it can be difficult to separate cleanly in single-stream and its weight can drive up transportation costs. In some parts of the country, it’s been tough to make the economics of glass recycling work. But a success story is emerging in Colorado, thanks to a unique partnership between Waste Management and Momentum Recycling.

Waste Management has collected glass from communities across Colorado through single-stream recycling for 10 years. The processed glass was used in various beneficial ways but the goal was to find a “bottle-to-bottle” solution – recycling used bottles into new bottles. With the opening of Momentum Recycling’s plant and Waste Management’s investment in new technology, the vision has become reality.

And this means more of two things Coloradoans love: locally-made products and beer. The state is, after all, the world headquarters of Coors and home to hundreds of microbreweries.

Cultivating the Right Conditions

Waste Management and Momentum Recycling have partnered successfully in Utah for years. But the companies couldn’t replicate the same business model in Colorado. For one thing, glass is collected separately from other recyclables in Utah. That means it’s cleaner and requires less processing. Glass is also typically collected at central drop sites in Utah, which saves on transportation.  

When glass is collected in single-stream and processed at a material recovery facility (MRF), it breaks and gets mixed with other materials, which makes it harder to separately cleanly. Glass often reaches the end of the sorting line mixed with shredded paper, bottle caps and other miscellaneous items.

In 2017, Waste Management installed new equipment at the Franklin Street (Denver) MRF to increase sorting capacity and produce even cleaner glass for Momentum. The new system works as a powerful vacuum, pulling paper away from glass, making it cleaner and easier to recycle. Waste Management sends 1,500 tons of this cleaner glass to Momentum Recycling’s Broomfield plant for processing every month.

When the glass arrives at Momentum Recycling it is further cleaned and refined to remove contaminants. Momentum’s innovative new plant includes air separation systems, mechanical screening, metal detection and removal equipment. The cleaned glass is separated by color and provided to local manufacturers to make new bottles. 

And in just a short time, those shiny new bottles are filled at local breweries and back on the shelf for Coloradoans to enjoy.

About Waste Management of Colorado

Waste Management of Colorado has served Colorado communities for more than 50 years, investing heavily in local operations – from our recycling equipment and safety training to our high-tech trucks and compressed natural gas (CNG) fleet. Waste Management was the first company to bring single-stream recycling to Colorado and we continue to develop innovative solutions to help Colorado communities become cleaner and greener. Our 1,200 Colorado team members are proud to serve their friends and neighbors across the state.