The recycled glass aggregate has no rough edges, and is safe enough for children to play on. Photos: Andela Products Co.
By Victoria K. Sicaras
In Tennessee, the Cumberland County Recycling Center is both saving and making money by creating glass — yes, glass — mulch and road salt.
After Cumberland County closed its landfill in June 2011 and began sending waste to a neighboring community, the county found itself paying $30/ton in tipping fees, which adds up when you're collecting 14,000 tons of trash a month.
“We had to look at every way we could possibly save on fees,” says Mike Harvel, the county's assistant director of solid waste. This included recycling wood, electronics, plastics, paper, cardboard — and glass.
“Glass is one of the heaviest materials in our waste,” adds Tom Breedan, director of solid waste.
In December, the recycling center invested $93,793 in a glass crushing and recycling machine from Richfield Springs, N.Y.–based Andela Products Co.
Only one employee is needed to run the machine for about one to two hours a day. Bottles, jars, and other glass items are loaded into a bin, where a series of hammers on a crank breaks them down into tiny pieces and then finishes them into a variety of sizes.
The machine separates lids, paper, labels, corks, and waste into another bin at the end of the conveyor. In this manner, it can convert 12 tons of glass into about 636 pounds of waste.
Glass is transformed into sand-like dust, gravel, chips, or mulch-like stone. The finished products are not jagged and will not cut. They can be used in many applications including playgrounds, landscaping, soil stabilization, and traction control on roadways.
So far, the recycling center is creating two different products. One is a sand material that can be mixed with road salt to treat icy roads. The county's highway department purchases the glass sand at $5/ton, which in turn allows the department to purchase less salt and cover more roads.
The second product is a larger 3/8-inch glass that the recycling center sells as landscaping material to the public for $30/ton. One customer uses the material for fish tanks and aquariums.
The county also uses the material for its own landscaping at courthouses and county buildings. According to manufacturer Andela Products, glass mulch lasts longer, and unlike regular mulch it won't fade, break down, or become termite-infested.
Purchasing the glass recycling system was a win-win decision for the county, says Harvel. “We're saving $30/ton plus making $30/ton.” With the savings alone, the machine pays for itself within two years. But even better, the center's combined recycling efforts has nearly doubled annual revenue — from $240,000 to more than $400,000 — thanks in large part to the ability to recycle and sell glass.
Watch these videos to learn how Andela Products Co.'s glass recycling systems work and the end-products they create.
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