A unique partnership that formed in North Carolina early in 2016, and of the outcomes being achieved through properly scaled investments in two MRFs.  The Tar Heel state is ripe for glass success, with glass production facilities, ample secondary processing and glass beneficiation, a statewide MRF infrastructure universally accepting glass, strong residential curbside recycling programs and drop-off glass collection systems, and a unique bar and restaurant recycling law that requires businesses that serve alcohol to divert containers from the waste stream. Even so, there clearly has been (and continues to be) room for improvement in how glass moves through the system, especially with single-stream processing having become the norm. At the MRF level, stakeholders have indicated that glass could be cleaned and separated more effectively.  Through its Recycling Business Assistance Center (RBAC), the North Carolina state recycling program established MRF projects designed to improve glass handling as a priority project in its 2015 Recycling Business Development Grant program. Although the state got no takers the first year, it continued to prioritize such projects in its 2016 business grant cycle but with a new twist. Leaders in RBAC and the state’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) were able to work to bring in the support of the Glass Packaging Institute (GPI) in 2016 to demonstrate simple improvements with real returns in glass capture and higher quality at single-stream recycling facilities. 


The state convinced the glass industry, through GPI, to tack on additional funding to public grants aimed at improved glass recovery. “From the start, the project looked worthwhile and the process showed that the grant program candidates were chosen carefully,” said Lynn Bragg, the president of GPI. “Our members, the glass industry, want glass recycling to improve, and though we had not done something like this before, the case was made effectively.”  When the 2016 grant proposals came in, two projects emerged as top candidates for the combined funding. Each demonstrated slightly different and very practical approaches in scope and scale, allowing them to act as valuable examples for initiatives in other jurisdictions.


American Recycling of Western North Carolina is a small, independently owned MRF serving areas near Asheville and Buncombe County. Processing about 10,000 tons of recyclables per year, American Recycling accepts three streams of glass: single-stream curbside glass, county municipal glass from drop-off sites and other programs, and separated brewery material from plants operated by craft brewers including Sierra Nevada, New Belgium, and others.  

-Received $40,000 from state and $20,000 from GPI
-Replaced glass breaker, added glass screen, added bunkers
-Effort boosted glass recovery from 135 tons per month to 220 tons per month, resulting in monthly landfill cost savings of $2,000


Sonoco Recycling of Raleigh, a regional MRF owned by Sonoco, a $5 billion global packaging and paper company is based in Hartsville, S.C. and operates four MRFs in the Southeast. The Raleigh facility services municipal single-stream recycling programs in Raleigh, Durham and Cary, among other North Carolina cities. The glass upgrade at the MRF was part of a larger rebuild that cost more than $1 million (the company did not break down the costs of the individual components). 

-Regional MRF owned by large packaging manufacturer

-Received $40,000 from state and $20,000 from GPI

-Added and upgraded variety of screens, glass cleanup optimized with cyclone air scalping system, conveyors upgraded

-Effort boosted glass recovery by 8 percent, equating to annual savings potential of as much $90,000