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Greensboro Votes To Scrap Glass Recycling, Citing Rising Costs

A picture of beer bottles

The Greensboro City Council voted this week to end the city’s glass recycling program. Waste Reduction Supervisor Tori Carle said downturns in the market for recycled glass forced the decision.

“We did not make this choice lightly,” said Carle. “Greensboro is a community that loves to recycle, we know our residents want to recycle, but glass is worth about negative $22 a ton for our recycling processor just to get it to the next plant.”

If the market for recycled glass picks up, the city could consider collecting it once again. Until then, bottles and jars will instead head to the landfill with other household trash.

While that might be hard for eco-conscious residents to accept, Carle says it's not as bad as it sounds.

“If I was going to have to choose paper, plastic, metal or glass to put in the landfill, I would choose glass,” she said. “It is an inert substance; it's not going to mix with other chemicals or anything juicy in the landfill.”

Carle says glass doesn’t emit any methane or other gasses, can help compress other garbage in the landfill and will eventually degrade into sand.

In addition, Greensboro will no longer recycle bulky plastic, shredded paper, or gabled cartons used for milk and juice. The council also voted to remove the city's 20 recycling drop-off sites because of an increase in illegal dumping. Carle says the city is planning an outreach campaign to educate residents about the changes, which go into effect in July.

Elizabeth Friend grew up in North Carolina listening to public radio in the backseat of the family station wagon. She has been reporting and producing at WUNC since 2016, covering everything from Army history to armadillos. She's also the co-founder of the beloved summer event series Audio Under The Stars. In her spare time she enjoys exploring the outside world with her family, dabbling in esoteric crafts, and cheese.
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