The True Challenge to Recycled Glass – Economics


Lucas Hamilton

Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications for CertainTeed Corporation

Recycled content is a key component of sustainable products.  However, manufacturers often struggle to find recycled content because of economics. This is particularly true with regard to glass or cullet which is an ingredient in products such as fiber glass insulation.

The sad fact is that much of the glass in the U.S ends up in landfills because the economics of glass are such that on any given day the value of the glass may be much lower to the waste hauler than the cost of the fuel to take it over to the manufacturer who will buy it off their hands.

So on most days, in most parts of the U.S., we suffer from the fact that glass is not actually being recycled. Even though we put it in containers at our curbs, it doesn’t wind up getting back into the economy because its value is too low.

I’ve talked to many people about this and one option I came up with is to make glass more expensive.  Artificially, this can be done through deposits or we can go to the real form which is to make glass more expensive.  If it is valued more as a commodity it will have more value as a recycled product as well. While giving a presentation recently, I made a statement about the fact that having programs such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), which places a value on high recycled content in products, ends up creating a value for recyclable materials that did not exist before.  This solution I think is more eloquent than my own of adding a deposit.  Another side benefit is that this action is creating jobs at the local level because of the LEED emphasis on indigenous materials.

So I tip my hat to programs like LEED for helping to create local jobs, reuse local resources, and reduce the landfilling of valuable resources.

“Pollution is nothing but the resources we are not harvesting. We allow them to disperse because we’ve been ignorant of their value.” –R. Buckminster Fuller

Green at work—At Greenbuild

Copy of Michael low res picWow, thanks for your very insightful thoughts regarding the promotion of green these days.  It seems, as we suspected, that overdone Green promotion does in fact ruin it for those who are trying to be responsible in their portrayal of green and sustainable products.

We’re headed for what I believe may be the one trade show that matters to people this year—Greenbuild, being held in Phoenix in November.  I don’t know whether it’s the promise of a keynote speech from Al Gore, the Sheryl Crow concert or the beautiful weather, but if my fruitless hotel search is any indication, it’s going to be well-attended.

Greenbuild will be a perfect time to gauge “greenspeak” among building products manufacturers. Again, it’s not about talking green; it’s about how responsibly we do so.  As I mentioned in my post the other day, I’m hearing from the architect community that we need to start integrating green into our everyday actions…by example and through the promotion of our products.

You’ll find us at booth #921 with a very different approach than in recent years.  We used to have a big chart outlining all of the LEED Credits you can potentially earn using our products.  Last year, you seemed much more interested in seeing actual product.  So, this year, we’re bringing the walls to you.  We affectionately call it the “tunnel of love,” but what we’ve got is a design that shows complete wall and roofing systems, from inside out, addressing the major sustainable issues of moisture management, sound control, energy efficiency, and recycled content.  A bit of a departure for us, but we’re excited.  Our favorite blogger, Lucas Hamilton will also be there with his tremendous knowledge of building science.

We’re also very excited to be hosting a luncheon featuring our friend Dennis Wilde from Gerding Edlen Development who will be talking about taking existing buildings and doing a comprehensive retrofit to improve energy efficiency, water and waste management and human comfort.  This is amazing since it’s easier to shoot for these things when building a new building vs. accepting someone else’s mistakes as your starting point—cutting edge stuff from a company we’re proud to be partnering with.

There are limited slots available for this luncheon.  If you would like to attend, get back to me at this address to be included in a drawing for one of these coveted tickets.  Keep the feedback coming!

 Mike Loughery is Director, Corporate Marketing Communications at CertainTeed Corporation.