Dive Brief:
Denver-based MillerCoors’ Rocky Mountain Bottling Co. has approved a request from the Santa Fe Solid Waste Management Agency to become a recycled glass vendor, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican. The agency will ship two loads of glass per month to MillerCoors, at a cost of $1,235 each, to be recycled into new bottles. The city has more than 2,000 tons of glass stockpiled from the past year. The agency’s executive director Randall Kippenbrock told the Santa Fe New Mexican this agreement is a more expensive deal than dumping the glass in the landfill, but cheaper than crushing it at the transfer station for alternative uses. The new partnership will not impact customers’ recycling fees.
Dive Insight:

This partnership comes more than a year after Santa Fe decided to eliminate glass collection due to costs and safety hazards. The decision fell in line with a number of other cities, including Houston, New Orleans and Nashville, TN, that adopted the trend to re-evaluate glass recycling because of lagging regional markets. However resident pushback has caused many cities to seek new, creative glass recycling solutions.

Establishing a deal with MillerCoors is advantageous for the city, as it allows for bottle-to-bottle recycling rather than using glass as alternative daily cover or construction aggregate. The presence of MillerCoors in Colorado has created a key market in the region many others would be thrilled to have. In contrast, the recent closure of a bottling plant in Massachusetts has caused widespread disruption for Northeast recyclers this year.

Though glass can be challenging due to weight and quality issues when mixed with other materials, multiple cities have found success with dedicated collection programs. In January, Nashville announced the "Honky Tonk Glass Recycling" program to collect glass from a number of downtown bars, with the hope of eventually spurring demand for residential collection. After a two-year hiatus, Greenville, SC reintroduced glass collection through a partnership with RAM Recycling, though the city is starting in the commercial space before bringing glass recycling back to residents. Ripple Glass has also expanded commercial glass recycling options through a similar arrangement in Kansas City, MO.

While Santa Fe’s decision to ship its glass to MillerCoors is a welcomed improvement to the city’s current recycling system, exporting the rest of the city’s recyclables may not be so simple moving forward. The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that the city has been forced to adjust its contract with Friedman Recycling, the firm that processes recyclables for the region, due to effects of China’s import policies. The adjustments could impose an increase in disposal costs by more than $700,000 to the agency, however the anticipated cost increase is covered by cash reserves for the 2019 fiscal year, according to Kippenbrock.

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