Glass recycling would benefit NOLA, Tulane community

Emily Carmichael, Staff Writer

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The following is an opinion article, and opinion articles do not reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo.

New Orleans reintroduced curbside recycling for the first time since Hurricane Katrina in January but did not extend this program to include much-needed glass recycling. From an economic perspective, glass can be tricky to recycle, but especially for New Orleans the investment is worth every penny. From Broadway to Bourbon, beer and wine bottles lay scattered throughout the streets.

Liz Davey, director of the office of sustainability, said glass recycling makes sense for businesses like bars, whose trash is mostly cardboard, glass and recyclable cups, but can be tough both economically and logistically to recycle. 

According to the Glass Packing Institute, glass is unique because it can be recycled an infinite number of times without losing quality or purity. Glass recycling is necessary for its own industry because a main ingredient in new glass is cullet, furnace-ready scrap glass. Cullet can be substituted for up to 95 percent of raw materials, allowing manufacturers to lower consumption. 

Despite the benefits, the economics of glass recycling are more complicated in New Orleans. The nearest cullet processor, a factory capable of recycling glass, is located almost 400 miles away in Alabama. The cost of hauling glass outweighs the financial gains of glass recycling for waste companies.

There are some available alternatives to glass recycling. Nolaware is a company that repurposes wine bottles from local restaurants to create unique glassware. Tulane’s own glassblowing department accepts donations of clear glass. For the average citizen, however, there is not a comprehensive solution.

Louisiana, not known for economic vitality or environmental sustainability, takes pride in the French Quarter and New Orleans. Glass recycling presents an opportunity for the state to improve on its weakness and highlight its strengths. Investing in glass recycling would create jobs and promote environmental responsibility among residents and businesses. It would also clean and beautify both the streets of New Orleans. For the benefit of a recovering city and a polluted state, the local and state governments should find a way to make glass recycling viable in New Orleans. 

Emily Carmichael is a freshman in the Newcomb-Tulane College. She can be reached for comment at [email protected]