The city of Pittsburgh is piloting a new glass recycling drop-off program, in an effort to reduce contamination in single stream recycling.
Single stream recycling refers to the practice of putting all recyclables together in one container. When glass breaks, it can affect other recyclables, particularly paper. Small shards of glass get embedded in paper and cardboard, making it more difficult and expensive to recycle.
“There’s been reports where rollers … at [paper processing] facilities, they’ve had to replace them over and over again,” said Teresa Bradley, recycling supervisor for the city. “As a result, unfortunately, many domestic paper processors in the United States have closed up.”
Bradley said the new glass drop-off program isn’t an indication that pickup will go away. “Single stream, curbside is here to stay.”
But she said cities have to think hard about their recycling programs. China has stopped accepting many recyclables because of contamination, and it’s been difficult to find a market for them.
“I think what is really going to be focus for a lot of municipalities is zero waste, waste avoidance and reduction,” Bradley said. “Thinking beyond recycling.”
The glass drop-off containers are located at Construction Junction in North Point Breeze, the city’s environmental services building in the Strip District, and McKinley Skate Park in Beltzhoover.