Home Glass Recycling Solves Lack of Local Options in Georgia
Recyclers are exhausted by rumors that their efforts are wasted, so when a Richmond Hill resident discovered her glass wasn’t being recycled, she started looking for local alternatives.
Tamela Buttrey has built a foot-high glass maze in a marked off area of her garden. Filled with glass bottles of every color arranged in neat rows, the yard overflowing with breakables is Buttrey’s home glass recycling operation in Richmond Hills.
“I don’t see any of this as garbage,” Buttrey said.
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It operates Our Glass Life, which can be described as an artisanal glass recycling operation. Buttrey said she only picked up about 20 people, including two restaurants, but still had plenty of glass on her hands. She sells commercial-grade recycling bins for $25 and charges $10 to pick up glass. She also picks up glass at the Richmond Hills Farmer’s Market.
“You don’t normally think about it when you’re throwing one bottle at a time,” Buttrey said, but the bottles add up. She said if people saved all the glass they use in a month, they’d be surprised how much it piles up – and she said that experience inspired her to grind glass.
A retired oncology nurse, Buttrey’s interest in home recycling began when she became a wine consultant at Scout & Cellars, a company that uses multi-level marketing, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. 19, and had more glass bottles than normal. .
But when she went to recycle them, she was told by the employee picking up her solid waste that Bryan County no longer recycles glass.
Buttrey uses Atlantic Waste Services, the waste and recycling provider for the City of Richmond Hill, which also serves Bryan, Chatham and Effingham counties, Tybee Island and Pooler, among others. Atlantic does not recycle glass, nor do municipal departments in Bryan County, Chatham County or the City of Savannah.
For recyclers who wish to ensure the continuity of the life cycle of their glassware, the Georgian coast is virtually devoid of options.
The Chatham County Resource Conservation and Recycling Education Center and the City of Savannah were both contacted by email and phone for comments regarding recycling and glass recycling options, but none did not offer an immediate response.
Glass crushing machine makes home recycling possible
Buttrey hung on to her lack of glass recycling options for a while until she overheard her daughter-in-law’s sister about a company that makes small glass crushing machines for recycling . After months of reflection, she took the plunge.
The machine, a GLS2.0, is small – only about 3.5 feet tall. It has a square mouth to feed bottles into a slender neck that descends into a bucket to collect the treated glass, which has been pulverized into sand.
One of only 60 such machines in the world, Buttrey says, it is designed by Expleco Limited, a New Zealand company that produces glass crushers in an effort to reduce pressure on global landfills and catchments.
In a fenced-in corner of his shady yard, Buttrey has a small shed that houses the machine. Donning boots, overalls and gloves, Buttrey sorts, washes and removes labels from glass before putting them in the crusher. She wears a mask to protect herself from inhaling glass particles.
Buttrey harbors no illusions of grandeur. She realizes her operation is small and limited in what she can do, but she is content and enjoys the glass crushing process.
While she invested in an expensive crushing machine, the screens to sift the crushed glass sand to create a market-grade product are expensive, costing thousands of dollars. She now uses some that were given to her by a friend who sells screens not intended for glass recycling. Plus, it simply doesn’t have the capacity to make enough sand to actually market it to companies looking to buy sand made from recycled glass.
For now, she is piling sand around a tree in her garden. Different colors of sand form tiny hills where she experimented with getting finer quality sand, by only grinding certain colors to get green or blue sand, or sand that has little bits of labels that she didn’t take off. It’s soft to the touch.
“Every bottle here doesn’t go to the landfill. It feels good,” Buttrey said.
She said she thinks the community could do a lot with sand made from recycled glass, whether it’s used on golf courses or to fill sandbags used to prevent flooding during storms. She said she will continue what she has been doing, and the next step is to seek out partners who can help connect her to where her product, sand, can go.
Buttrey isn’t the only local looking to tackle the region’s lack of glass recycling options. Malena A. Gauss founded Lammergeier Closed-Loop Glass Recycling, a company that, on a larger scale than Buttrey, also enters the glass recycling market to serve the needs of the Georgian coast.
Marisa is an environmental journalist covering climate change and the environment on the coast. She can be reached at [email protected] or by phone at (912) 328-4411.