The Flathead Valley’s sole resource for recycling glass is looking for a new spot to call home, without which the business would have to shut down its popular public drop-off site.
New World Recycling only recycles glass, with a drop-off spot at its headquarters at 4969 U.S. Highway 2 W. just north of Glacier Park International Airport and curbside pickup services.
Teri Schneider, owner and operator of New World Recycling, said that after seven years, the business was not able to renew the lease and was given until June 1 to move, but moving everything is an expensive endeavor.
The various machines they use to recycle the glass, including a pulverizer, have to be moved by other special equipment, Schneider said.
The company is a rarity in the state — Schneider said they’ve received calls from people in Missoula seeking services, and some have even driven up from Missoula to drop off their glass. Schneider said her partnership with Xanterra Parks and Resorts, the concessionaire for Glacier National Park, means a Columbia Falls drop location is easily accessible to the community at the Xanterra offices.
“This is my community, and we have to do this for them,” Schneider said, becoming emotional. “Last year, we did a half a million pounds of glass. There’s no way anyone can say the community doesn’t want it.”
The problem at this point is not having a place to go, Schneider said, as well as the sheer effort it will take to move their business, shop, and home.
“I would love to see somebody step up and say, ‘I’m going to donate this land for five years’ or whatever,” Schneider said.
Should the lease expire without the business finding a new home, Schneider said the drop site would close, but curbside pickup would continue.
Matt Folz, the director of sustainability for Xanterra, said the collection site at the Columbia Falls office took in about 190,000 pounds of glass last year, and 20,000 this January alone.
“That didn’t go to the landfill,” Folz said. “I think there’s a level of community pride in it.”
Xanterra has put plenty of recycled glass to use: the sidewalks and cement entryway at their administrative offices include the glass, as does the Red Bus garage. When it’s pulverized, the glass becomes edgeless and soft, like sea glass. It’s safe for bare feet, and often used in landscaping.
Schneider said some in the community may not have a clear picture of what her business is up to, because there’s an assumption that they only work with glass from the public drop site. Schneider said they don’t make any money recycling and selling that glass, and that the curbside business is the true boon.
“We don’t make money off the (drop-site) glass,” Schneider said. “It cost me an extra $21,000 to take care of that public drop site.”
The cost comes from the waste involved, she said, such as the tape and glue and corks and tops that come with glass bottles, which the company not only removes, but also pays to have put in the landfill. Machine maintenance is another huge cost, she said, with a new $6,500 conveyer belt needed annually due to the sheer mass of glass running on it all year, and each of the 24 hammers inside the pulverizer costs $100.
Plus, it takes about the equivalent of 32 32-gallon garbage cans of glass to make one yard of the repurposed glass, Schneider said, and one yard of it sells for about $50.
Folz said there’s plenty of construction happening in the valley that could include the glass and hopes to keep glass recycling as an option.
“We want to grow the program,” Folz said. “We get swarmed, but it’s the good kind. People care and take the time to sort it. It’s great. We always say that if you make it easy and accessible, people will do it.”