“Glass is dense, heavy and difficult to remove,” said Steve Skoog, director of environmental services for Becker County.
Steve Skoog, Director of Environmental Services for Becker County, in front of the recycling center. (Nathan Bowe / Tribune)
So far this year, the county has shipped 560 tonnes (up from 429 tonnes last year) of glass jars, bottles and other recyclable materials to Strategic Materials, a nationwide company that operates a recycling facility in St. Paul.
There, the glass is finely ground, sieved, passed through magnets and vacuum systems to remove impurities, and otherwise made into usable material.
Companies buy it to make things like glass containers; fiberglass insulation; highway bead for reflective tapes; abrasives (used to blow up steel and aluminum and restore everything from precast concrete to log houses to automobiles); as fillers in paints, flooring and caulking, as well as in lubricants and in metal fabrication work.
“It’s a huge place, they suck (recyclable glass material) from everywhere,” Skoog said.
Becker County is now “close to breaking even” on the cost of transporting its glass there, Skoog said.
So far this year, Becker County has spent about $ 21,000 to ship the glass and has received about $ 12,500, according to information from Skoog.
Last year, Becker County spent approximately $ 15,000 to ship its recyclable glass products and received approximately $ 10,600 in revenue for this product.
The amount of glass that poured into the county recycling center this year ranged from a low of 19.6 tonnes in February (traditionally the lowest month) to a high of 57.8 tonnes in July, which is traditionally the most voluminous month.
But now there may be some competition for Becker County glass. Otter Tail County has started storing recycled glass at a facility currently under construction near the Fergus Falls transfer station, with the building slated to open in a few months.
Early next year, this glass will begin to be used by the Otter Tail County Roads Department as part of the road base for road construction projects.
Neighbors like Becker County might be able to haul their recycled glass to Fergus Falls instead of St. Paul, potentially saving money.
This could be the way to go. “It depends on the economy,” Skoog said.
“They would store it and use it on rural projects as needed,” he added.
The other thing to consider is how the recycled glass will be used. Skoog loves the way Strategic Materials transforms old glass into a wide array of new products, instead of just “burying it in the platform.”
Not that there is anything wrong with it. “As long as it’s clean, the platform is an acceptable use for this product,” he said.