Westport launches pilot program to separate glass recycling

By Paul Ploumis

WESTPORT — The town has launched a pilot program to separate glass from the single stream recycling to not only reduce the amount of residual waste, but to also find better alternatives for recyclable glass.

If the program is deemed successful, it will expand within the year from the five participating towns of Westport, Fairfield, Trumbull, Milford and Woodbridge to all 14 towns of the Greater Bridgeport Regional Solid Waste Interlocal Committee.

Westport Public Works Director Peter Ratkiewich said the concept for the pilot has been in motion for about a year and a half.

“The problem with glass in the single stream is that it breaks and then contaminates paper, cardboard and other recyclables with broken glass particles,” Ratkiewich said. “This reduces the market value of all recyclables.”

“Conversely, small bits of paper, bottle caps, straws and other metals contaminate the glass so much that it can’t be effectively recycled, so it either gets used as landfill cover or is discarded as residual waste,” he added. “By separating glass from the single stream, contamination is eliminated on both ends and makes the glass more valuable.”

Ratkiewich said about 21 percent of the current single stream recycling becomes residual waste. Out of the residual waste that goes to the landfill, about 22 percent of it is glass by weight.

He said that while the glass ending up in the landfill is not the “highest and best use,” it is still a form of it being recycled.

Under the program, residents will be able to deposit their clean, glass beverage bottles, juice jars, condiment bottles and food jars at 300 Sherwood Island Connector where the Department of Public Works has provided a special container at the transfer station.

Residents are asked to rinse the glass containers, remove lids and caps and place them in a separate box or bin from the single stream recycling. They can they put the accepted glass items in the separate container during the transfer station’s normal operating hours.

“This is an important step in making our recycling program more effective, and reducing the portion of our solid waste that is going to landfills,” First Selectwoman Jennifer Tooker said. “Westport is proud to be part of the group leading the program that we hope to see implemented across the whole region, and the entire state.”

Ratkiewich said the pilot program is based on a similar program the Housatonic Resources Recovery Authority implemented about a year ago.

“It was a huge success,” he said. “We aim to duplicate that program.”

Ratkiewich said their program’s success will be based on its quality of product. The separated, clean glass will be brought to a glass recycling facility in Beacon Falls, where it is converted to an additive that replaces fly-ash in concrete products.

He said the glass actually makes the concrete stronger and also reduces the carbon footprint of the concrete industry since fly ash is a byproduct of coal burning power plants.

The new facility will soon have the capacity to take all the glass generated in the state’s 169 municipalities, according to a press release.

“Right now we’re not going to be saving anything because it’s a soft launch and we’re using it to work out the logistics, protocols and procedures,” Ratkiewich said. “It’s not costing us anything, but we won’t see any profit until the other 14 towns of the Greater Bridgeport Regional Solid Waste Interlocal Committee are fully in the program.”