There are more than 400 liquor licenses in Erie County, Pennsylvania. But in 2016, commercial recycling programs stopped collecting glass; it was dropped from curbside recycling in 2018. Prism Glass Recycling of Erie estimates the county sends roughly 7,000 tons of glass to landfills each year. The new Recycle for Pennsylvania program is bridging the gap to keep glass out the trash and keeping it in the manufacturing stream.
Sending glass, an infinitely recyclable material, to sit in a landfill is not only wasteful but ultimately unsustainable. In January 2021, Prism, part of the Erie Management Group family, launched a pilot glass recycling initiative. The program established 15 free drop-off locations in its first year, collecting nearly 100 tons of glass in its first five months.
Fast forward to today—the number of drop-off locations has grown to 19, and Prism has diverted more than 325 tons of glass from area landfills. The public loves it. The success of the pilot program and its public support got PRISM’s team thinking: What would happen if every household, restaurant, bar, brewery, and winery in Erie County dropped their recyclable glass into a big blue box instead of in the trash?
“What could we do collectively to continue to improve the systems, to keep glass out of the trash?” says Nicholas Bruno, Business Development Manager, Erie Management Group and Prism Recycling. “We knew there was a real need there, a real opportunity to move this material, divert it from landfills, and get it back into the recycling stream.”
Ease for Consumers, Cost-Savings for Commercial
Recycle for Pennsylvania was born as a collaborative effort to facilitate commercial glass collection for recycling that’s a little like a bottle deposit system. Prism provides receptacles and manages glass collection by partnering with 10 high-volume bars and restaurants and 10 high-volume beer distributors. Distributors encourage customers to bring in their glass containers for disposal when they return to purchase new products. In addition, restaurants and bars have signed on to recycle glass generated inside their establishments.
“Having a drop-off where you’re already going is akin to taking your single-use plastic bags back to the grocery store, only with glass bottles,” explains Laura Guncheon, Vice President, Project Management Office Erie Management Group. “Convenience breeds participation,” she says.
The program is financially supported by contributions from O-I Glass, removing the need to charge fees for the receptacles and glass collections.
“This initiative is designed to lessen the amount of waste that bars and restaurants have in their waste stream, and encourage people who buy beverages in glass bottles at distributors to recycle through the bring back program … both services provided at no cost to the participating businesses for one full year.” says Bruno. “We anticipate that they will see a benefit to keeping glass out of the trash and fully integrate glass recycling into their operations.”
Recycle for Pennsylvania Means Jobs
The benefits of the Recycle for Pennsylvania campaign extend beyond recycling and landfill diversion. Prism wants to support, maintain, and grow Pennsylvania jobs in the recycling and container glass producing industries.
“The glass industry either directly or indirectly impacts so many people in the Commonwealth,” says Guncheon. “O-I Glass is an anchor employer in Jefferson County, and local economies are further supported through hauling and processing. The pickle jar or beer bottle you put in one of our drop-ins means your friends and family in Pennsylvania continue to work,” she says.
Glass is 100% percent recyclable, and recycled glass is a main ingredient used to make new glass. The more glass bottles and jars Recycle for Pennsylvania keeps out of the trash, the more recycled glass will be used to create new glass containers at O-I’s plants in Pennsylvania.