A comment frequently heard and seen on social media about city operations is a complaint about the city eliminating glass from the residential recycling program.

Greensboro has continued to recycle glass but no longer accepts glass in the brown residential recycling bins.  For residents to have their glass recycled, they have to take the glass to one of the many glass recycling drop off locations in Greensboro, which it is far more time consuming than throwing bottles and jars in the recycling bin and wheeling it out to the street.

Those who think that bottles and jars in their residential recycling bin get recycled are operating under a misconception.  Those bottles go to the landfill but simply take a more circuitous and expensive route than if they were simply placed in the residential garbage bin.

Even without recycling residential glass, in the 2021-2022 budget the cost of recycling for Greensboro increased $750,000.  In other words, the city had to pay an additional $750,000 to have the recycler haul off the products that can be recycled – like paper, plastic and cans. 

Up until 2016, Greensboro was being paid $30 a ton for recyclable material, and in 2016 that price was dropped to $15 a ton but the contract was extended.  However, since 2019 the city has had to pay for each ton of recyclable material it produces. 

The $750,000 in additional expense is the result of a three-year contract.  The first year the city paid $30 a ton for recyclables, the second year it was $60 a ton and in the upcoming year the cost is $90 a ton.

That is a huge change in the cost of recycling from being paid $15 a ton to paying $90 a ton, but it is a much better deal than many cities have.

When glass was being recycled it made up about 25 percent of the city’s recyclables by weight.  Since, at the time, the city was being paid per ton, it made economic sense to continue to include glass in the recycling stream.  However, now that the city is paying $90 per ton, eliminating glass keeps recycling costs down.