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Brookhaven starts glass trial with New Jersey recycling company

Glass recycling bins on the south parking lot

Glass recycling bins on the south parking lot of Brookhaven Town Hall on Tuesday. Credit: James Carbone

Brookhaven officials have launched a pilot project with a New Jersey company that could land the town its first deal to sell recyclable glass in about two decades. 

The town, which stopped curbside collection of glass late last year and now receives glass at seven deposit centers, has shipped two truckloads of glass over the past two weeks to Jersey City-based Pace Glass Recycling, Supervisor Edward P. Romaine said in an interview. The town was not able to provide any other details about the trial.

Brookhaven and Smithtown last year stopped curbside glass collection while switching from single-stream recycling programs to dual-stream recycling. Both towns established locations where residents can leave glass in receptacles. 

Currently, Brookhaven uses crushed glass as landfill cover or as sand used in road projects because they have struggled to find buyers. 

“There’s really no market for glass," Romaine said. "We’re trying to create a market.”

Huntington and Southold also discontinued single-stream amid a worldwide recycling crisis exacerbated by China's decision to curtail purchases of U.S. recyclables.

Huntington continues to collect glass with plastics and cans in curbside pickups at least twice a month, officials said. The town sells glass together with plastic and aluminum to a recycler, Huntington spokeswoman Lauren Lembo said. 

Southold's solid waste collection center in Cutchogue includes a separate area where residents can deposit glass. Smithtown and Southold sell their glass to Brookhaven.

Officials have said glass has proved to be perhaps the most difficult material to recycle, both because few companies purchase it and because broken glass damages other recyclables such as paper and plastic.

Collecting glass separate from other recyclables should make it easier to sell, said Susan Collins, president of the Container Recycling Institute in Culver City, California. Glass collected separately is less likely to be contaminated by other material, she said.

“That’s exactly the kind of glass that the processor would love to have,” she said.

Brookhaven and Smithtown officials said they were surprised by the amount of glass deposited so far. At some of Brookhaven's glass recycling centers last month, glass spilled out of stuffed bins and fell to the ground.

The town last week installed new glass receptacles several times larger than the old ones. Bins are marked to receive either green, brown or clear glass.

Smithtown spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo said the town is expecting to install larger containers and officials are considering creating additional locations.

“We’re pretty surprised with the amount of glass that people are delivering to the three locations,” she said.

Brookhaven should have more glass collection facilities to accommodate its population of about 486,000, Collins said, adding that successful U.S. glass recycling programs have at least one receptacle for every 20,000 people.

Romaine said Brookhaven also plans to add locations.

“I would like to see by the end of the year 20 to 25 sites in the Town of Brookhaven,” he said. “I want it so no one is more than 10 minutes away from a recycling [center]."

Towns that scrapped single-stream recycling last year have seen mixed results so far.

Huntington said its carters collected about 360 tons of bottles, cans, paper and cardboard in the first two weeks of January, compared to about 293 tons of recycling under a single stream system in the second week of 2018. Recycling pickup was canceled on Jan. 4 last year because of a snowstorm. 

Brookhaven collected 718.75 tons of paper and cardboard on Jan. 2, compared to 695.64 tons of glass, plastic, aluminum, paper and cardboard in the first week of January last year, officials said. Officials did not have an immediate explanation for the increase.

Russell did not have figures for recycling collections in Southold, but said the town has seen "a very easy transition."

“I don’t think we’re going to see a substantial reduction in Southold," he said. "People here have very good recycling habits.”

With Sophia Chang and Nicholas Spangler

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