Nearly 5 million pounds of material was recycled by Nobles County residents last year and approximately 10 percent of that was glass. Recycled in shades of amber (brown), flint (clear) and green, the glass eats up profits of recycling centers for the simple fact that companies can make glass bottles from virgin sand and soda ash cheaper than they can push recycled glass through the processing stream.

Eric Joens, district manager at Schaap Sanitation in Worthington, said revenues from other products such as aluminum and paper have long made up for the economic loss of glass recycling, but as margins get tighter due to declining markets, it’s cause for concern — particularly among smaller recyclers.

Fortunately for Schaap Sanitation, it has found a market for recycled glass with Anchor Glass in Shakopee. It costs the local company roughly $900 per truckload to haul the glass — it first goes to St. Paul for processing before being hauled to Shakopee — and another $75 per ton for crushing and sorting the glass by color. Still, seeing the material recycled is better than hauling it to the landfill.

“We’ve got to remember we can recycle glass indefinitely,” Joens said. “That glass bottle can be recycled over and over again. Compare that to paper products and aluminum. Each time they are recycled, they are degraded.

“The most interesting thing is, from the time your bottle leaves Schaap’s and goes through, this process is only two to three weeks,” he added. “You have a new bottle made again — that’s quite incredible.”

While Schaap Sanitation is fortunate to have a market for glass, other — particularly smaller — recycling companies have found it’s just too costly to continue accepting glass.

“Other recycling institutions may be losing more than $100 per ton and some states have discontinued (glass recycling) because it’s provided a lot of red ink,” Joens said, reiterating, “We’re committed here at Schaap’s to recycling all the waste streams.

“If we were a smaller company, it would be really hard to absorb those extra costs,” he added.

In his nearly 25 years as the manager of Schaap Sanitation, Joens said revenues for the various recycling streams have gone through periods of lows and highs. This time around, the losses incurred by smaller facilities has bankrupted them, he said.

“Almost each county in Minnesota works with private haulers to subsidize their programs to offset their costs,” Joens said.

To read the full story, visit