Eastern Tennessee Ends Curbside Glass Recycling

According to Recycling Today and numerous local newspapers and TV news outlets, Waste Connections of Tennessee has discontinued the curbside collection of glass for its recycling program as of January 1, 2017. This affects several major cities in the eastern region of Tennessee, including Maryville, Alcoa, Oak Ridge and Knoxville, one of the largest municipalities in the state.

Waste Connections of Tennessee sent letters to all of the affected cities in mid-December alerting them to the change. The company stated that it is “dedicated to maintaining a healthy and strong recycling program for all residents,” but cites several reasons why glass pickup has been halted.

“Markets for recyclable materials ebb and flow, and changes in glass markets have made this change in service necessary,” stated Doug McGill, municipal marketing manager of Waste Connections. “By removing glass from curbside collection, we will preserve the overall integrity of our recycling program.”

McGill went on to explain that WestRock, the company processing the glass collected by Waste Connections, will no longer accept glass from single-stream collections. This type of collection system allows all recyclable materials to be included in the same bins, and broken glass is causing a safety hazard and damaging equipment.

“Their equipment is being highly damaged by broken glass and co-mingled with colored glass, which has no market anymore,” continued McGill. “This is not a local issue – it is part of a national trend due to the regional nature of glass markets and related costs.”

Waste Connections of Tennessee is correct in stating that it is not the first waste-collection company to stop the curbside pickup of glass. The same has already been done in several other major cities across the country, including Omaha, Neb., and Harrisburg, Penn.

Curiously, the Waste Connections of Tennessee website states that “Nationwide glass recycling is big business with plenty of room to get bigger” and “there’s still plenty of room to improve [recycling efforts].”

The company will continue to recycle glass, but individuals will have to bring the glass themselves to one of only five designated recycling centers in the Knoxville area.

Other cities, notably those on the West Coast, such as Seattle, Portland and San Francisco, have already solved the problem of glass in single stream collections by allowing residents to put glass bottles and jars in a separate curbside container.

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2 Responses

  1. Jessica McNaughton says:

    This just makes companies like IceStone, GlassRecycled and Vetrazzo look so much better. They are the ones repurposing the glass and making beautiful materials out of it. It is horrible to think that along with all the other environmental missteps that are happening today, cities are stepping further away from being environmental stewards.

    I am going to continue to support and promote these great brands that are helping encourage recycling, not discourage it as described here. Very unsettling.

    • gsradmin says:

      Sadly, Jessica, I just read an article on recycling and apparently glass can take up to 1 million years to degrade in a landfill, according to the experts…

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