The world is choking on plastic waste – more than 22 billion plastic bottles and 500 billion plastic bags are thrown away each year – and entities from fast food chains to national governments are clamping down on plastics’ sale and use.
And the glass industry is expecting to reap the benefits.
Glass makers already tout their product’s advantages: cheap sand is the raw material, glass doesn’t leach chemicals into contents the way plastic bottles can, and recycling glass saves more than half the energy of making it new.
That, in part, is why Pace Glass – a high-tech recycling company serving five states in the US northeast – is plowing $90 million into a new plant outside New York City and doubling its fleet of collection trucks to 50. The 100-acre facility will have 27 automated sorters and roof space for solar panels that, with a waste-to-energy system, could allow the campus to operate off the grid.
Glass is a material whose time may have come again. In 2002, a report from the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory celebrated glass as the “industry of the future” whose “potential for creating diverse materials and products has hardly been realized.”
On a more workaday level, glass makers are showing a stronger appetite for cullet (raw recycled glass) to save them from having to compete for supplies amid the global sand shortage (Trends Journal, Summer 2017). Entrepreneurs and investors, take note.