north fulton recycling changes

Residents with a “green” mindset face the prospect of shelling out more of their own green to practice what they preach.

The future of glass recycling in North Fulton is at a crossroads, and both cities and residents could face higher bills for the service or see it vanish altogether.

Waste haulers and recycling companies have notified North Fulton cities that glass recycling is becoming more expensive and dangerous for their facilities. The glass, they say, has damaged machines and contaminated other recycling materials. As a result, many companies have discontinued the practice.

part i

Milton's waste haulers no longer accepting glass recycling

By Kathleen Sturgeon - December 12, 2016

MILTON, Ga. — Because local recycling processors no longer accept glass, the city of Milton removed glass from the list of materials haulers are required to recycle.

The City Council voted Dec. 5 to approve an ordinance in the city’s code that removes glass from the list of recyclables waste haulers are required to accept. 

Milton Sustainability Coordinator Teresa Stickles said many citizens received a letter from their waste hauler indicating that glass would no longer be accepted in single stream recycling.

“That’s because the materials recovery facilities or recycling processors have started rejecting glass in single stream when it’s all mixed together,” Stickles said. “The reality of the environment of recycling currently is glass is not allowed.”

Mayor Joe Lockwood said he understands that it’s hard to separate the items, but it still seems strange to not be able to recycle glass.

To address that issue, Stickles said she is exploring ways for residents of Milton to still be able to recycle their glass. Additionally, the city is reaching out to nearby communities to see how they handle glass recycling.

“It’s not just Milton, it’s nationwide,” Stickles said. “Everyone in this region is scrambling to find a good solution. There isn’t an easy, good solution right now.”

But the encouraging thing, she said, is any Milton resident who wants to recycle glass can take it to the Roswell Recycling Center, 11570 Maxwell Road, because glass is separated there.

“We can pull into Roswell Recycling Center once a month and get rid of our glass in the interim,” Stickles said. 

To learn about the Roswell Recycling Center visit http://bit.ly/2hndO8P.

part ii

Glass recycling becoming dangerous, unprofitable

By Julia Grochowski - February 22, 2017

NORTH FULTON, Ga. — Residents with a “green” mindset face the prospect of shelling out more of their own green to practice what they preach.

The future of glass recycling in North Fulton is at a crossroads, and both cities and residents could face higher bills for the service or see it vanish altogether.

Waste haulers and recycling companies have notified North Fulton cities that glass recycling is becoming more expensive and dangerous for their facilities. The glass, they say, has damaged machines and contaminated other recycling materials. As a result, many companies have discontinued the practice.

“Glass is just a really difficult product to handle for various reasons,” said Charlie Slade, a spokesperson for Advanced Disposal, which provides solid waste collection and recycling services in 18 states, including Georgia. “The glass becomes broken and crushed when it gets to the recycling center. You have issues where the shards of glass get mixed together with other materials. It really reduces the value of the other materials that glass gets into, like paper, and makes it difficult to market them.”

Those same shards of glass have been known to tear up rollers, wear out conveyor belts or hurt handlers, who sometimes separate glass by hand.

Even glass itself has become hard to market to recycling companies, because the different colors of glass mix together in the process.

“So what’s happened because it has become such a problem is that the industry of collection as a whole has said ‘we’re no longer going to accept glass in your recycling,’” Slade said.

Waste haulers that work with the City of Milton, for example, have stopped offering glass recycling altogether. The city has removed it from its list of recyclables while it explores other options for residents to continue recycling glass.

“This problem has been on the horizon for a while,” said Shannon Ferguson, Milton communications manager. “We’ve seen other cities and counties changing their agreements with their waste haulers based on what the waste haulers were willing to do. We anticipated that it was coming.”

The issue extends even beyond North Fulton.

“This is something we’re seeing across the state. And Georgia is not the only state where this is happening,” said James Drinkard, assistant city administrator for the City of Alpharetta. “So then it becomes a question of ‘well, what are you going to do?’”

Alpharetta is at a crossroads when it comes to the question of glass recycling.

In the past, all recyclable materials – such as paper, plastic, aluminum and glass – were collected at once in a “single stream” during curbside pickup. Collection trucks then compacted the materials and sent them to a materials recovery facility, where they were processed through machinery. The resulting recycled products are marketed to aluminum, paper, plastic and other companies.

Glass can still be recycled, just not as it currently exists in single-stream recycling. It would have to be separated before it reaches the facilities.

“The challenge is when you put all of the materials together,” Slade said. “It’s not so much that there isn’t an industry for glass recycling. There very much is.”

As such, Alpharetta’s City Council recently decided to collect public input before making a final decision on how to set up service. They will be rolling out a public education campaign at the end of February on the issue and present options for residents to vote on in early March.

Their first solution is one that many communities have opted for, which is to discontinue glass recycling and trash it instead. There would be no cost increase for residents, but it would increase landfill waste. The second option is to establish collection sites for glass-only. This would create a minimal cost that the city budget could absorb without impacting residents, Drinkard said. 

The third option would be to issue separate containers for glass for curbside pickup, but it would tack on an extra $3 cost per month for each household.

While Alpharetta is still considering the options, the City of Roswell has come up with a unique solution that allows its residents to continue glass recycling.

At its Dec. 28, 2016 meeting, the Roswell City Council unanimously approved an amendment to the contract with its waste hauler, Advanced Disposal, to increase the fee for collections in order to continue curbside glass recycling. The city will pay $60,000 to continue the service for six months, starting January 2017. The added fee is being absorbed by the city’s Solid Waste Fund without being passed down to customers. 

However, at a recent council work session, Finance Director Keith Lee estimated the Solid Waste Fund could only absorb the added cost for another few years before residents, or some other source, was tapped.

The increased fee helps cover the costs of maintenance for the equipment and the decreased value of other recyclable products mingled with the glass.

Advanced Disposal, in turn, has been using the crushed glass as roadbed material instead of buying new materials, such as gravel and crusher run. The glass collected from Roswell has been helping them build roads.

“It’s being repurposed for a higher and better use. It’s not just being thrown into a landfill,” Slade said.

When the current Roswell contract runs out in June, the city and waste hauler will once again sit down to revisit the terms and possibly explore new developments in recycling technology.

Slade has expressed hope that the rapidly changing industry technologies will make glass easier to process and reintroduce into single-stream curbside pickup. 

“We as a company are confident that technology will developed that we can implement at our MRFs that will help alleviate some of these problems. And if it doesn’t, we’ll adjust,” Slade said. “But I do think that technology will come up that will help solve the issues that we’re dealing with as an industry.”

In the meantime, the Roswell Recycling Center is offering free glass recycling to anyone who brings glass to their facility at 11580 Maxwell Road, Alpharetta. At the center, staff sort all of the glass by hand, including by color. The result is high-quality glass recycling with very little contamination that the center gets paid to produce. All North Fulton residents are welcome to bring their glass there with no additional fee.

“We have seen a big jump in people bringing us glass. Some come from as far away as south Atlanta. People don’t want to throw it away,” said Janet Liberman, Roswell’s environmental programs manager and executive director of Keep Roswell Beautiful. “Glass is still extremely recyclable.”

part iii

Alpharetta Oks separate glass recycling

By Pat Fox - April 12, 2017

ALPHARETTA, Ga. — Alpharetta’s solid waste customers will have another recycling bin to take to the curb following action Monday by the City Council.

City Council voted unanimously to institute separate glass recycling for residents and a monthly $3 rate hike.

The decision comes just months after Republic Services notified the city that it could no longer accept glass as part of the single-stream recycling service it now offers customers. 

Costs to separate glass from other recycled materials have risen sharply in the past few years, and many waste haulers are discontinuing the service altogether.

Republic says the separate recycling service would add $3 a month to residential bills for weekly pickup.

City officials are now exploring whether weekly collections for glass are necessary and whether the charge could be reduced if haulers collected glass bi-weekly or once a month.

The decision to start curbside glass recycling comes more than a month after the city asked residents to choose between three options:

Discontinuing glass recycling and simply discard it with the trash

Establishing a central collection site or sites for residents to bring their glass

Instituting regular curbside service

The city received feedback from 2,100 of Alpharetta’s 15,000 residential customers. Results were split, with a slight 4 percent majority favoring the first option to eliminate glass recycling completely.

Assistant City Administrator James Drinkard said most of those opposed to recycling glass separately were dissatisfied not so much with the added cost but with the hassle of storing and hauling another bin to the curb.

“We didn’t have strong opposition saying, ‘We don’t want to recycle glass.’ It wasn’t anything like that,” Drinkard said.

Members of the council were mixed as well.

Councilman Donald Mitchell said neighborhoods already suffer three waste-hauling trucks on collection days – for trash, recyclables and for yard waste. 

Adding a fourth truck for glass recycling would only add to the noise not to mention wear on the streets. 

Mitchell recommended the city explore reducing the number of collections for glass items, possibly reducing it to once or twice a month.

If weekly collections are approved, it would raise residential rates by $36 annually or $540,000 a year in total added costs to households citywide. That’s not taking into account possible reduced rates for seniors. 

Officials from Republic could not provide cost estimates Monday night for customers receiving monthly or bimonthly collections.

Councilmembers were in agreement that the service should be offered, but they also said they would decide later how often collections would be made after the city receives figures from Republic.

“To me, the do-nothing option is not responsible,” Councilman Chris Owens said. “We’ve been basically training ourselves for decades now to recycle.”

In addition, waste collection and recycling is a service, not a revenue stream for the city, Owens said. 

Although he joined the majority in the final vote, Councilman Jim Gilvin said the results of the survey reflect what he’d heard from residents – that they were split evenly between the three options. 

In that case, he said, the second option – having the city provide a collection site for glass – seemed to satisfy the most people.

Drinkard said, in practical terms, the city has only one site it could use for glass collection – at the Public Works Department. The city simply does not own enough property to install what would amount to be dumpsters in various locations, he said.

The council decision won favor with at least one resident.

Speaking to the council before the vote, Howard Salk told officials curbside recycling is the best option because it is easiest for residents, and it would eliminate the hundreds of trips households would have to make to a recycling center.

“As far as the survey goes, I was very encouraged that over 60 percent of the residents want to recycle glass,” he said.

Letter to the Editor

Alpharetta should reconsider glass recycling decision

April 19, 2017

Alpharetta City Council should reconsider adding a fourth bin/truck for glass recycling as it has many negative environmental impacts: 

1. Noise pollution

2. Air pollution (burning hydrocarbon fuel) 

3. Global warming (higher CO2 emissions)

There is also increased wear and tear on roads and traffic congestion. Many do not have room in their garage for another large wheeled bin. Strength, age and health will preclude many from carrying a small hand-held bin to the curb. A dropped bin of glass would be a safety disaster and cleanup nightmare if the lid popped open. 

Neither of these options is viable. Let’s more efficiently use what we already have. Designate the first week of the month for only glass recycling and the remaining weeks for “all other” recycling. The total recycling volume hasn’t changed, so our current wheeled bin and (third) truck should handle it. Most residents can handle accumulating two weeks of “all other” recycling and four weeks of glass with no overflow problem. Neighbors should agree to use each other’s open bin space if their own bin is occasionally full. 

This proposal requires garage space for a cardboard box to store recycling not going into the bin that week, And, remembering to switch where you toss items the first week of the month. But no option on offer is perfect. This proposal requires no more trucks, no more pollution, no more traffic, no more bins to store and haul up/down the driveway, the least additional garage space, and no more cost to residents.

Acknowledging the negative impacts of a fourth truck, it is not an environmental win to handle glass this way. In this case “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” means REUSE the wheeled bin and third truck we already have — just more efficiently.

– Jenny Corbin, Alpharetta