City opens window on glass recycling 

Missoula residents who flinch with a pang of guilt every time they toss a glass bottle into the trash will soon be able to assuage their eco-friendly consciences. The City of Missoula announced this week that it has signed a one-year Memorandum of Understanding with Browning-Ferris Industries (BFI), Missoula’s contracted trash pick-up and management firm, to resume glass recycling in Missoula beginning Jan. 3.

The agreement, reached earlier this month, stipulates that BFI will collect the glass containers from the public at their recycling center at 806 W. Spruce and transport them to a stockpile area at the City Street Department’s Northside storage area located near the city cemetery. The recycled glass will eventually be crushed and mixed with an aggregate and used as base material on city road and street projects. Similar projects have been underway in Bozeman and Great Falls for several years now.

This latest recycling effort is in keeping with Missoula’s current purchasing policy, which states that if the city can buy a recycled product for within five percent of its normal (or nonrecycled) cost, it must do so. This latest agreement also stipulates that the city will use the glass/aggregate road mix only if its purchase price is within five percent of the normal price of a non-recycled base product. The city, which uses about 4,000 to 8,000 tons of road base material annually, must still find a bidder willing to crush and mix the glass/aggregate material.

“I’m really excited about it,” says Ward One Councilmember Dave Harmon, who, along with City Project Manager Doug Harby and Dale McCormick of the Center for Resourceful Building Technology, was instrumental in getting the agreement signed. “We have all kinds of documents that talk about sustainability and stuff, and it’s really good to see us finally taking a step towards that.”

According to Max Bauer, general manager for BFI’s Montana division, his company will be donating at no charge all the hauling and collecting costs, as well as the collection boxes, which run about $4,000 apiece. Although Bauer says that the public will only be able to drop off glass at BFI’s Spruce Street location, a collection site for the University of Montana may be considered in the future.

In the past, glass recycling in western Montana has been met with mixed results. Due to the limited market for recycled glass, the prohibitive cost of trucking it out of state and the fact that no glass recycling facilities are located in Montana have made it difficult to get recycling projects off the ground. An effort to launch a glass recycling program died two years ago due to a lethal mix of premature publicity, low market prices and no clear end-use for the recycled product. However, a two-week experimental program last fall at the University of Montana collected nearly 35 tons of glass.

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