We’ve all heard at some point in our lives that glass is 100% recyclable and can be recycled endlessly without loss of quality.

It’s true, glass can be recycled forever. But is it recycled in Manitoba?

 

It’s complicated.

 

In short, glass is reused, but not as new bottles the way it used to be. This is due to the change in where glass containers are produced.

man saying "there's so many layers"

In the 1950s, producers started to transition from glass to plastic to make food and beverage containers, opting for its cost-effectiveness, durability in transportation, and lighter weight.

Prior to that, when containers were mostly glass, producers had bottling facilities scattered throughout Canada. It was expensive and risky to transport the heavy, fragile containers over long distances. Residents could return their glass to the local bottling plants to be reused. As plastic containers became common, bottling facilities started closing because it was cheaper and more efficient to transport goods over long distances.

Manitoba no longer has a major bottling plant to recycle glass. Without a close end-market, the cost and emissions to transport glass to be recycled into new containers are too great.

What happens to recycled glass in Manitoba?

A pile of crushed glass

Glass crusher in GFL’s Winnipeg Material Recovery Facility.

The collected glass is crushed at GFL’s Winnipeg processing plant. From there, it goes to Brady Landfill, where the city uses it to build and repair roads.

To be clear: Manitoba is not dumping the glass in the landfill as waste, which is what people often think when they hear that glass goes to the landfill. Instead, it finds a purpose as a key component in road construction.

Glass serves as an environmentally friendly road base in place of sand and gravel, which need to be mined, processed, and transported.

Next time you hear that glass is being discarded in Brady Landfill, rephrase it to “glass is being reused as road base at Brady Landfill.”

Are there other ways Manitoba could reuse or recycle glass?

We are all about sustainability and always looking for ways to reuse what can’t be recycled in Manitoba. There has been some exciting research done to find new ways to use glass, like this study at the University of Manitoba about using crushed glass to filter river water.

The study checked how well crushed recycled glass works in water filters for small town wastewater treatment in Dunnottar, Manitoba. Researchers compared it to regular sand filters over 128 days. The results showed that it works almost as well as sand in cleaning the water of contaminants like dirt and ammonia. The researchers think glass could be a good replacement for sand in these filters.

Manitoba Heavy Construction Association published a report which suggests crushing old concrete to use for new roads and buildings. Even though it doesn’t talk much about glass, it does mention we can recycle various things like glass, asphalt, and more for construction use.

Many organizations care about the environment, and we are looking for solutions to curb the waste of resources. These are just a few examples.

One day the market may change, and we could start recycling glass as we used to here in Manitoba.

The important thing is that glass is already accepted in the blue bin, and it’s reused in Manitoba.

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