CHARLOTTE, N.C. — As contaminated recycling continues to rise, Mecklenburg County is making changes to make sure more of its glass bottles are able to be sold to recycling buyers.
Starting July 1, Mecklenburg County is asking residents to separate glass bottles from other recycled materials at the county's four full-service recycling centers and place them in new, bright yellow bins.
"The markets are getting pickier not on the amount of glass they are buying from us, but on the cleanliness of the glass," said Jeff Smithberger, Mecklenburg County Solid Waste director.
Across the state and country, communities are eliminating glass recycling. Smithberger said Mecklenburg County does not want to get to that point.
Many of the glass bottles the county typically receives are contaminated, which makes it difficult and costly for the county to make sure the bottles are able to be properly recycled.
"It's a difference of us having to pay someone to get rid of glass or having someone pay us for glass," Smithberger said. "We are trying to do things in an economical way and in a sustainable way. Having glass only containers allows us to recycle this much more efficiently and much more cost-effectively as well."
The county sells its recycled glass to a company in Georgia called Strategic Materials, but the company will only take the glass if it is pure and clean.
If the glass is contaminated, the county has to pay anywhere from $20 to $25 a ton to clean it before it can be sold.
"If we can get clean glass, we can actually make a couple of dollars a ton for the glass," Smithberger said. "It helps offset the cost for transportation."
Curbside recycling is not affected by the changes, but Smithberger said glass should be clean, loose and dry.
The yellow glass-only bins are repurposed old bins. The county plans to eventually roll them out to all self-service recycling centers.