Toss a bottle into a recycling bin in western Pennsylvania and send that bottle on a journey that can result in a new amber, green or clear bottle on a store shelf in 30 days or less. Thanks to the region’s robust glass manufacturing, processing and recycling industry, the entire process never even needs to cross state lines. Lending a voice to the success of glass recycling in western Pennsylvania are the “Faces of Glass” – those who collect, transport, process and manufacture glass bottles, jars and jugs – featured in a new video produced by Pennsylvania Resources Council (PRC).
“We’re excited to offer a behind-the scenes look at where your bottle travels and encourage everyone to recycle glass since it’s 100% forever recyclable,” explains PRC Deputy Director Sarah Alessio Shea. “Our five-minute video showcases PRC’s many partners who enable us to bolster glass recycling, an industry that spurs economic growth by feeding a circular economy while at the same time protecting the environment by saving energy and conserving natural resources.”
A companion zine, “We Recycle Glass in SW Pennsylvania” – also available at www.prc.org/glass – showcases the “Faces of Glass” as well as the history of glass making (Pittsburgh was once home to 80% of the state’s glass factories), options for finding recycling locations, and a glass glossary. The booklet also follows the journey of a Red Ribbon soda bottle from recycling bin back to store shelf.
“Our region offers such a wealth of resources that it’s possible for Michael Brothers Hauling & Recycling to pick up your bottle from a blue bin in Pittsburgh and transports it 40 miles away to CAP Glass in Mt. Pleasant, where the bottle is crushed into pebble-like cullet,” says Shea. “Then just 100 miles north, the process can be completed at O-I Glass in Brockway where the cullet is remelted and molded back into a glass bottle, jar or jug.”
The glass recycling industry employs eight people for every one person employed at a landfill, and glass is 100% forever recyclable when part of a circular economy. “Our process makes us an even more efficient factory,” says Lucas Brumberg, Unit Plant Manager, O-I Glass. “Not only are you recycling and reusing something but you’re also using less energy, less natural resources in order to produce another container.”
PRC launched its glass recycling campaign in 2019 with a series of pop-up events in response to the elimination of glass in numerous curbside programs. Since then, the nonprofit’s efforts have grown to feature a region-wide glass recycling network that has collected more than 2,700 tons of glass in the past 4 years. In 2022, a PA DEP recycling grant held by Borough of Dormont supported the establishment of the Glass Recycling Collaborative of Southwestern PA, a partnership between PRC and municipalities in Allegheny County. Currently residents of nine municipalities benefit from reliable, uninterrupted glass recycling access, and additional sites are in the planning stage.
“Glass is still one of the most recyclable materials we generate in our homes, and the market for glass recycling is very strong,” according to Shea. “Recycling glass uses 70% less energy than manufacturing glass from raw materials, and recycling is as easy as choosing to toss your bottle or jar into a recycling bin rather than a trash can.”