The market for glass recycling in central Arkansas is struggling, with residents of Little Rock, North Little Rock and Sherwood set to lose their ability to recycle glass in their curbside pickup beginning April 1. Nationwide, cities and other recycling entities have cut down on what they can take in recycling or raised their prices in response to moves by China, once a major recycling buyer, to curb excessive “contamination” of its recycling purchases. After years of cities adopting “single-stream” recycling — which places all materials into one bin — in an effort to increase participation, the amount of nonrecyclable goods contaminating the loads has increased. China now has set strict standards on contamination — 0.5 percent of recycling bales, less than half of what recyclers say they can do — and accepts little recycling from the United States.
Now recyclers like Waste Management are often losing money. The company reported to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission last year that it expected growth in its trash and landfilling services and a decline in its recycling services. For years, Waste Management has been sending the glass placed in curbside recycling carts out of state at a price that company spokesman Bailey Moll says is too high to continue doing.
Arkansas doesn’t have any large manufacturing facilities that take glass, making it a less attractive market for glass recycling, said Courtney Little, president and owner of Ace Glass in Little Rock. Many cities in Arkansas take their glass to Ripple Glass in Kansas City, Mo., but that facility is located near a fiberglass plant, Little said. “When they process it, they have an immediate place to sell it,” he said.
Ace Glass collects glass but doesn’t process it yet, Little said. He hopes that changes soon, and he and his son toured processing facilities in Germany last summer to look at how to adapt one to fit Arkansas’ needs.
Little would like to be able to create glass products, such as glass powder and crushed glass, to use in construction. “Glass foam aggregate” can be used in concrete floors in the place of foamed clay, Little said.
Right now, the company is just storing the glass it collects, but it has sent it out of state previously. Moll, the spokesman for Waste Management, said the company is mulling what it could do with glass from a drop-off if it’s no longer collecting curbside glass. It will have even less to send out of state. Waste Management owns Recycle America on Sloane Drive, which is where the drop-off bin is located.
Maumelle residents can take glass to the Maumelle Recycling Collection Center on Cogdell Road. That glass is collected by Ace Glass. Another recycling company in Little Rock, Natural State Recycling, has a public drop-off bin for glass at its Thibault Road recycling center, though the glass is picked up by Ace Glass.