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City no longer recycling glass

In a development that might shatter the hopes of hardcore environmentalists, the city of Mount Airy has stopped accepting glass in its recycling program.

“There is just no market anymore,” City Manager Stan Farmer said of that material Thursday night when formally announcing the change during a meeting of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners.

Farmer said the municipal staff is asking sanitation customers not to put glass into recycling containers, since it no longer is being collected and separated as part of a recycling stream that also includes plastics, metals and paper.

“So they might as well not put it into those containers,” he said of the familiar blue receptacles used for purposes of recycling. “They might as well put it in their normal trash.”

This is just the latest change in the recycling industry overall, which has been subject to the ebb and flow of demand for certain materials in recent years.

In the case of glass, it is being phased out by communities across the country for recycling due to economic factors, according to online reports. In addition to its poor market value at present, weight is a factor with glass, which is heavier compared to items such as cardboard and plastic and can cause compactor trucks to become burdened along with problems from breakage.

“It’s not recycled anymore,” Farmer said.

Mount Airy residents who continue to put glass into the recycling containers will cause a weight-related problem for the city government due to the cost it must pay a company to handle local recyclables.

“There is no reason to pay them $60 per ton,” Farmer said of the rate involved and factoring in the additional weight posed by glass.

The glass exclusion by Mount Airy apparently was not widely disclosed until Thursday night, when the city manager discussed the change prior to the meeting. He later announced it at the end of the meeting when officials may make random comments.

One local resident who notified The Mount Airy News Thursday said many citizens apparently don’t realize that glass recycling has ceased, with the exception of those possibly noticing small magnetic stickers on canisters delivered around the first of the year.

“So all of us are still putting glass in our recycling,” that person said. “It’s a myth to think that citizens saw that little magnetic thing.”

“I did have a couple of people contact me about it,” Commissioner Chad Hutchens said before Thursday night’s meeting.

Mount Airy launched single-stream curbside recycling in January 2012 after years of residents being required to transport recyclable materials to a drop-off center. The single-stream concept has allowed them to place all such items into containers without having to be separated.

For years, the city was paid for the recycled materials it generated.

However, that situation changed in 2018, when China began banning imports of certain recyclables and imposed restrictions on others.

In late 2019, Mount Airy officials were told that not only would the city cease reaping revenues from such materials, it had to begin paying for their collection and processing by Foothills Sanitation and Recycling. It is a company in Wilkesboro which is contracted by the municipality to provide that service.

This resulted in the $60-per-ton charge cited by the city manager. That translated to almost $40,000 annually based on Mount Airy’s volume in late 2019.



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