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How to correctly recycle glass in the Kansas City area

According to the U.S. EPA, of all the glass used in America, only 33.1% of it is recycled. Compare that to Europe, where the rate of glass recycling is 74%.
Posted at 10:19 AM, Apr 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-22 11:30:16-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — What can and cannot be recycled in your curbside recycling bin might surprise you.

Most of us can’t put glass in our curbside bins. While Kansas City, Missouri, is one of several local areas that lists glass as one of the items you should not put in your bin, there is a place where you can send your glass to be recycled and reused.

“Glass often breaks and when it breaks, it can get into smaller and smaller pieces 'till it’s basically a fine fine dust,” said Matt Riggs from Mid America Regional Council Solid Waste Management District. “And that contaminates paper such as cardboard and office paper and those types of things which really downgrades their value as recyclable.”

MARC does have an online tool where you can type in the material you are trying to recycle and your zip code and find a place near you to recycle the item.

Riggs said Kansas City has about a 40% recycling rate overall. For glass, he said that the rate is only around 20%.

While their tool lists several places to take recyclable glass, Riggs said Ripple Glass is the only glass processor in our area. You’ve likely seen one of their big purple dumpsters around town where you can dump your glass for free.

KSHB 41 got a behind-the-scenes look at the facility.

“If a bottle enters from here, it can come out and be in the silo in about 13 minutes,” said Justin Miller, plant manager at Ripple Glass.

Miller said they process about 50,000 tons of glass per year from around Kansas City and nine surrounding states. 40 percent of that, he said, comes from the Kansas City area.

They mostly see beer and wine bottles, or items like a pickle or mayonnaise jar.

A beer bottle at their facility could be back on the shelf as a new beer bottle in about 30 days or as part of insulation for your house in as little as a week.

At Ripple Glass, those 13 minutes from arrival to silo start with humans sifting through by hand to take out contaminants like plastic bags and ceramic mugs. It moves through a large machine with cameras that can sort it in a fraction of a second before the glass is crushed into cullet.

Some of the cullet gets sent nearby to Owens Corning in Kansas City, Kansas, where they melt it down and turn it into fiber for insulation.

“Recycled glass is easier to melt so it requires less energy on our part,” said James Low with Owens Corning. “It extends the life of our furnaces and also increases their capacity. One piece of insulation that’s about eight feet long and about 15 inches wide? That’s about six beer bottles."

Ripple Glass was originally started by the owners of Boulevard Brewing Company. While Boulevard no longer owns the company, some of its products come back to consumers in beer bottle form.

Some of the product from Ripple Glass goes to a glass packaging facility in Oklahoma called Ardagh, where they make several things, including beer bottles.