Owens-Illinois halted production at its Waco glass plant in October, killing nearly 300 jobs and scuttling a promising glass recycling program that had just gotten started.
But Carole Fergusson, Keep Waco Beautiful executive director and a glass-half-full person, announced this week a return to action. She said four purple recycling stations have reappeared around Waco: at the East Waco Library, 901 Elm Ave.; Goodwill Industries, 1700 S. New Road; McLennan Community College, 1400 College Drive, Lot S; and at 151 N. Fourth St. near Heritage Square.
The Glass Recycling Foundation awarded $10,000 to get the project rolling.
“Glass is one of the most sustainable packaging products used in everyday life,” said Ashley Millerd, who encourages recycling as outreach administrator for Waco’s solid waste department. “Relaunching this initiative will help prevent unnecessary space used in the landfill and also help achieve the city council’s strategic goal of supporting sustainability.”
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The city of Waco has continued accepting glass for recycling at the Cobbs Recycling Center, but the wider program expands options for recycling glass, which is not accepted through the city’s curbside recycling program.
Prestige Shredding and Recycling, located on West Loop 340 in Robinson, has joined efforts. It will welcome the glass filling the new program’s portable containers, having set aside “a little bunker” that Millerd estimated would accommodate up to 40 tons. Strategic Materials Inc., in Midlothian, will crush the glass and heat it at high temperatures to create cullet, a material used to manufacture new glass products.
Before Owens-Illinois closed its plant that had operated on Beverly Drive since 1944, the company had agreed to accept scrap glass in the Glass4Good program Keep Waco Beautiful launched in January of last year.
But with Owens-Illinois abandoning Waco, local glass recycling supporters returned to the drawing board. They recruited Prestige Recycling and The Glass Recycling Foundation. Millerd said backers have touched base with Knauf Insulation, which this summer likely will open a 600,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in McGregor. Recycled glass is used in the manufacture of fiberglass insulation.
The plant is Knauf’s seventh in North America and will produce 500 million square feet of insulation annually, enough to fill 125,000 homes.
The Knauf website says more than half-a-billion pounds of recycled glass goes into Knauf Insulation products annually, and the company would use more if it were available.
“Some municipalities are getting rid of their glass recycling programs, thinking that glass is a nuisance to recycle or there is no market for it,” the Knauf site says. “This couldn’t be further from the truth.”
It says only 31% of glass is recycled in the United States, well below the European Union’s 76%. Glass can be recycled and re-manufactured an infinite number of times without losing quality, and “a bottle that you recycle today can also be back on the shelf as another glass bottle in just 30 days,” the site says.
Kevin McHugh, Knauf Insulation’s senior vice president for strategic products, said the company “absolutely welcomes the opportunity to partner” with local recycling groups, but does not have a contract with anyone. He said such a pact would represent a great “name and branding” opportunity.
McHugh said Knauf does not accept “curbside” glass directly into its manufacturing plants. It would partner with collectors and processors to gather, crush and clean the glass before using it. He said Knauf has not targeted a processor to provide glass to the McGregor plant, “but they can be found around the country and around Texas.”
Strategic Materials Inc., which has partnered with the local recycling initiative, has been around 125 years and operates nearly 50 locations in the United States, Canada and Mexico, according to a fact sheet.
McHugh said Knauf continues pursuing a June opening, and is well into hiring to fill 160 positions, with supervisory positions targeted first.