Grand County visitor Dan O’Brien, who recycled his glass bottles at the Community Recycling Center, was happy to hear the bottles would be recycled instead of being used as landfill cover. [Travis Holtby/ Moab Sun News]

After four and a half years, the glass that Grand County’s Community Recycling Center receives is once again being recycled.

A month and a half ago Grand County’s Solid Waste Special Service District shipped its first load of glass to Momentum Recycling in Salt Lake City.

Prior to that shipment, all of the glass brought to the recycling center was crushed and mixed with dirt to use as cover at the landfill.

“We have been looking for a new place to recycle the glass since we started stockpiling it four and a half years ago,” said Danny Jones, an employee at the recycling center. “But we were too far away from all the recyclers for it to be feasible.”

With Momentum Recycling’s new facility now operational, that is no longer the case.

Due to recent mechanical problems with the recycling center’s glass crusher, only one truckload of glass has been delivered to Momentum so far. But with the crusher nearly repaired, more shipments are planned.

Dan O’Brien, a visitor to Grand County, was happy to hear that his glass bottles were going to recycled, instead of being used as cover in the landfill.

“Moab seems like a very environmentally friendly place so that’s great to hear they are recycling again,” he said

Moab Solutions founder Sara Melnicoff is happy with the changes.

She helped set up the arrangement between the solid waste district and Momentum Recycling.

“The glass is being recycled again rather than down-cycled,” she said.

The arrangement to transport and recycle glass from Moab was worked out between the solid waste district, Interwest Paper, and Momentum Recycling.

Though Momentum Recycling recycles the glass at their Salt Lake City facility, Interwest Paper picks up and transports the glass.

Interwest Paper, a recycling company that has been working in Utah and the surrounding states for 35 years, specializes in setting up recycling programs for rural communities like Moab.

“It would take quite awhile for any customer in a rural setting to come up with a full load (of recyclables) and be able to sell it,” said Beau Peck, the director of sales and marketing at Interwest Paper. “So we combine it with other customers who are just like them so everyone can get the best possible price.”

“It was set up so they could bring the trailer down and leave it parked so as we can crush the glass and load it. Then we call them and they bring down another trailer and take (the first) one,” said Tom Edwards, the director of the solid waste district.

Because the glass is relatively expensive to ship, only half of the first load that Interwest Paper took to Salt Lake City was glass; the other half was paper and plastics.

After dropping off the glass at Momentum Recycling, Interwest recycled the plastics at their facility and sold the paper.

It wasn’t until Momentum Recycling opened their glass processing facility last October that Moab had a cost effective way to recycle the town’s glass, Edwards said.

Previously the glass received by the recycling center was shipped to the Coors brewery in Colorado where it was recycled into new bottles. But four and a half years ago the brewery changed the system that they used to receive the recycled glass.

The new system required the glass to be delivered in trucks that unloaded their cargo through doors on the bottom of the containers.

The problem with this was that these types of trucks are usually used to transport animal feed and thus have to be washed out after each load of glass they carry. Because of the added effort, it proved difficult to find a driver willing to take the glass, Melnicoff said.

Edwards believed that once transporting the glass to the Coors brewery fell through, there were no other cost effective ways to recycle the glass.

For the next two years the glass was stored at the Community Recycling Center until another option was found. Once the storage capacity was reached the solid waste district began breaking the glass, mixing it with dirt and using it as cover at the landfill.

Most of Grand County’s glass is now being recycled to make insulation by Owens Corning.

The fiberglass and insulation plant, which is around ninety minutes from Salt Lake City, is Momentum Recycling’s biggest customer, said John Lair, the president of Momentum Recycling.

“They have been really eager to increase the percent of recycled content in their product,” Lair said. “Some of their other plants in the county are as high as sixty some odd percent (recycled content). Here it’s been pretty low, like under ten percent. Before our facility got here the quality of the recycled glass they were getting was fairly poor.”

The high quality of glass that Momentum Recycling has been sending to Owens Corning has brought the amount of recycled material in their products up to around 20 percent. Lair said that as Momentum Recycling starts receiving glass from more communities like Moab that percentage will rise even higher.

“It’s a win-win all the way around,” he said.

The rest of Grand County’s recycled glass is sold by Momentum Recycling to Utah companies for sand blast material and to make water filters, cement, and asphalt sealant. Some glass is still sent to the Coors brewery, “but we try to avoid that wherever possible because of the transportation footprint,” Lair said.

Though the glass, plastic and paper that was sent to Salt Lake City in the first load covered the cost of transportation, the solid waste district still lost money because of the labor it took to load the truck, Edwards said.

Edwards said that in the future the solid waste district will be able to send more recyclables with each load and at least break even on the cost.

“We will actually ship more material next time to try to make a little more money to pay for the labor,” Edwards said.

Melnicoff said the next step will be to start collecting recycling at all of the Grand County buildings, particularly Old Spanish Trail Arena.

“They are only getting a tiny percentage of what’s out there as far as recycling. If they got more stuff they would make more money,” she said.