After New World Recycling closed down in December, along with the only glass pulverizer in Flathead County, glass recycling faced an uncertain future in Northwest Montana.
But Dave Fischlowitz saw this as an opportunity to start his own glass recycling facility, so he purchased New World’s broken, diesel-powered pulverizer and gave it a second life to start his company, Flathead Glass Recycling.
After replacing old bearings, hammers used to crush glass and the conveyor belt, Fischlowitz says the machine is running smoothly and successfully transforming the glass into smooth, colorful, tumbled glass.
Fischlowitz is able to run the operation by himself. First he separates the glass into different colors, for aesthetic reasons, and then fills 90-gallon, 300-pound containers and harnesses them with NRS straps. The containers are then lifted and dumped onto the conveyer belt, sending the material to the “hopper” where it goes into the pulverizer and converts the glass at about 2,000 pounds an hour.
Once the tumbled glass is ready for its second life, Fischlowitz says he plans to separate the glass into different sizes with a sifter, once it’s set up. To finish, he’ll load the glass into five-gallon buckets and load them onto pallets, where they will be ready for landscaping companies to pick up and use in their designs.
While glass-recycling facilities in Montana are few and far between, Fischlowitz’s method diverts glass away from landfills and repurposes the material locally, which removes the fuel costs and expenses of exporting recyclables.
Due to a lack of glass bottling plants near Montana, traditional glass recycling isn’t viable because it requires hundreds of miles of transportation costs for processing. That’s why local recycling is the only cost-effective way to redirect glass away from landfills, according to the Montana Department of Environmental Quality.
“A long-term future vision for a recycling center in the valley is based on the philosophy of being able to process locally, and not have to truck materials out and away,” Fischlowitz said.
While recycling facilities in Montana have traditionally included a drop-off location, Fischlowitz says that method has failed with places like Target and Xanterra in the past.
“I watched Target have a drop-off and get overwhelmed,” he said. “I can’t keep up with a drop-off; it’s too prone to contamination. All the collection at this point has to be very controlled.”
To manage the glass collection, Fischlowitz has created an event-based system. He partnered with the Under the Big Sky Music Festival this summer to recycle the glass accumulated over the event weekend. The festival delivered the glass to his facility in Columbia Falls, where he runs the operation. He plans to continue partnering with events and also with nonprofits to collect glass.
Nonprofits collaborate to schedule glass-recycling events where people bring glass for a specific fundraiser and donate roughly 25 cents a pound. Fischlowitz gives the nonprofit 80 percent while the facility keeps the remaining 20 percent.
By keeping the recycling business specific to events, Fischlowitz can control the amount of glass coming in and prevent overkill.
Powdered Soul, a nonprofit that creates volunteer opportunities for kids to help pay for winter sports, has a recycling event on Sept. 28, and Kalispell Regional Healthcare has an event scheduled on Nov. 16.
Fischlowitz is predicting a steady flow of traffic throughout each day, and he wants to show people his operation.
“I want them to see that we’re doing this locally,” he said. “If people can be connected to the process at all, I think that’s more meaningful.”
The current recycling facility is located in the industrial park at the north end of Columbia Falls, but Fischlowitz is searching for a new location that would be more convenient for hosting events.
Fischlowitz also runs Flathead Recon at the industrial park, where he salvages old materials from dismantled buildings. He also targets waste vegetable oil, which can be converted into fuel to run a diesel engine.
“I’d like to see a carbon-negative, energy-positive recycling center,” he said.
For more information, visit www.flatheadrecon.com.