Recycling center: Glass gets a new plan

Toughening trade relations with China will change the recycling of glass in Ridgefield.

“The ‘China Sword’ — that’s what this problem is related to: China’s decision not to accept any recycling from the U.S.,” said First Selectman Rudy Marconi. “If we’re going to recycle here in the U.S., we must meet their more specific guidelines.”

People using the Ridgefield Recycling Center will be asked to remove glass bottles and jars from what is currently a single-stream flow with all sorts of recyclables mixed together for separation later in the process.

China announced a “National Sword” policy in 2017, setting quality standards for recycled materials it will handle, and reducing the amount of recycling accepted by the world’s largest end-user of recycled materials. The policy is being phased in from 2018 to 2020 — when China intends to ban the import of all recycled materials.

The changes will soon show up at the Ridgefield Recycling Center on South Street.

“Ridgefield will be one of three municipalities in the greater Danbury area to do this,” Marconi said. “The removal of glass bottles from the single-stream recycling, specifically wine bottles, old milk bottles, beer bottles — those kinds of glass that have been a problem in single-stream, in that if broken are considered a contaminant in the single stream process.

“We want glass bottles — with caps removed — as the specific recyclable item,” he said. “We can recycle that specific glass more efficiently, to a specific end-user.”

Windows — panes of glass — are not included in the new program.

Marconi said in a Jan. 14 interview that the program was expected to start “this week or next.” The town is awaiting delivery of a special container for the recyclables. Marconi didn’t say how long it would continue.

“It’s a pilot program,” he said.

The change in recycling practices doesn’t affect households that have their recyclables picked up by trash hauling firms — for now.

But the glass separation program may eventually be expanded to include households with home pickup of recyclables.

Clean, any color

Recyclers using the recycling center on South Street will use a special container for glass bottles. They do not have to be sorted by color.

But jars and bottles should be clean, with all food product gone.

“There cannot be any contaminants in this glass — paper wrapping, labels, will be OK,” Marconi said.

“If we’re going to recycle a mayonnaise jar, we need to be sure the jar is clean,” he said. “Or pasta sauces that come in jar — it must be cleaned of any product. You cannot put it in there with sauce in it. Pickle jars, just rinse them out.”

Sometimes household recyclers want to err on the side of recycling everything they can — but this can be counter-productive.

“If a load has a contaminant in it, the whole load gets rejected,” Marconi said.

When the new program starts, recyclables from the Ridgefield Recycling Center will be taken to a private recycling facility in Windsor.

Other recyclables, picked up at homes by trash haulers, will continue to be taken to Shelton where Winter Brothers and Oak Ridge hauling firms operate a recycling facility.

“We’re not going to make any money on it,” Marconi said. “This is a pilot program to see if the removal of glass from the single-stream process will help reduce the amount of contamination — contamination being anything that causes a lack of efficiency in the single-stream process. Right now, glass is a problem.”

Marconi said Winter Brothers and Oak Ridge say glass is responsible for half of the contamination of recycling — and 40% of recycling loads are contaminated.

The other two towns in the program are Redding and Bethel, which use the Ridgefield Recycling Center.