BG recycling is better than national numbers indicate

Cardboard is dumped onto belt at BG Recycling Center.

(Submitted by Bowling Green Recycling Center)

Bowling Green curbside recycling is better than some of the national numbers indicate.

One study reports the national average for curbside recycling as 35%. The Bowling Green Curbside recycling is rate 12%.  That sounds like Bowling Green’s curbside recycling program does not measure up.  Here is the rest of the story.

A better comparison is pounds per household collected. The national average for curbside programs that do not collect glass per the study is 258# per hh/yr. The Bowling Green number is 246# per hh/year. However, many curbside programs count all materials delivered to a processor as recycled —including unrecyclable materials. Using this criteria the Bowling Green annual pounds per hh recycled would be 287# .

This indicates the Bowling Green curbside program is right around average or better for programs not collecting glass curbside.

The main difference in the quoted recycling rates is the national recycling average includes glass picked up curbside which amounts to 15-25% of household recyclables. Glass is heavy.

However, studies also show 40% or more of glass collected curbside is NOT recovered. It is lost in processing.  Glass breakage reduces what can be recycled and contaminates other materials.   As previously stated many communities count everything delivered to a processor as recycled which inflates their recycling numbers because there is always some material collected that cannot be recycled. This is magnified if glass is included and 40% or more is not recovered.

Collecting glass curbside is not the best way to recycle glass. It results in a significant loss of material. Broken glass contaminates other recyclables and creates safety hazards for sort personnel.

Curbside glass also costs more to recycle because fines and contaminants require removal after sorting. The curbside glass must be sent to a facility that can clean up the curbside glass. Curbside collected glass would have to be shipped to Dayton for processing at a current additional cost of $40 per ton. The curbside glass has no economic value until contaminants are removed.

Expensive modifications to the Bowling Green sort operation(which would be only partially effective) would be required.  Glass also would significantly increase sort equipment maintenance costs. Broken glass destroys conveyor belts and bearings. Glass contamination of other recyclables could reduce their value and/or cause rejection by markets.

These issues are the reason glass is not included in Bowling Green curbside recycling collection.  It costs significantly more to recycle curbside collected glass and the quality of all materials is negatively impacted.

Some communities have discontinued collecting glass curbside due to the above issues. (Houston Texas is an example).  Some are also establishing recycling dropoffs like Bowling Green’s to collect glass. Some communities have discontinued all glass recycling completely due to the cost. (Hancock County, Ohio)

All glass collected at the Bowling Green Recycling Center dropoff  is recycled and does not contaminate other recyclables.  This is not counted in the Bowling Green 12% recycling rate nor are other materials collected at the dropoff.  More glass is being recycled at less cost than if glass were collected curbside. It just doesn’t show up in the curbside recycling rate. Because the glass collected in the dropoff is not crushed more is recovered and can be recycled into bottles and fiberglas rather than abrasives. If the glass collected in the drop off were allocated to Bowling Green curbside it exceeds the curbside with glass collected annual average of 121 #/hh by 5 pounds (126#/hh)

While not all the glass comes from city households the big difference is it all gets recovered.

There is basically no processing loss. More glass is getting recycled because it is collected via the dropoff program.

We have been told there are rumors the glass collected by Bowling Green Recycling Center is being landfilled. This is NOT true. Currently a company in Sylvania, Ohio processes the glass for reuse into glass containers and abrasives.   The company picks up the glass but pays no value for it. This lack of economic value is a concern. For recycling to be sustainable materials must pay their way to market. All materials accepted by Bowling Green Recycling are recycled. Materials that cannot be recycled will not be accepted.

Many communities which do curbside collections do not have drop off recycling.

Bowling Green dropoff recycling is not included in the curbside recycling number yet it serves the same curbside households (and many more) and collects even more items than accepted curbside.  It is the amount recycled overall that counts. The curbside recycling rate only reports what is collected curbside not the total amount a community recycles.

The national study which quotes the 35% national recycling rate also included some locations which reported  dropoff recycling and yard waste in their recycling numbers. Bowling Green’s curbside rate does not include those things.  Bowling Green recycles grass leaves and brush which are also not included in the 12% recycling rate

When you understand the numbers Bowling Green’s recycling rate is very good.

While everybody wants higher curbside recycling numbers the amount of recyclable materials generated by households is not unlimited and the weight of recyclable items is being reduced.

In the past 5 years newsprint volume has been reduced 50% and containers weigh 30-40% less. Just maintaining current recycling volumes means people are recycling more items even if the total weight of recyclables collected is the same. You can’t recycle what isn’t there.

The Bowling Green recycling program measures up much better than first impressions.

However, it can always be better.

Certainly some people can put more recyclables in their curbside cart. (loose please –not in bags)

However, in some cases it also means people should put LESS in their recycling carts.

The amount of unrecyclable materials being pulled out of the Bowling Green curbside materials is 17% of the amount collected for recycling curbside. When curbside began in 2009 it was 7%.  We would like to see it get back to that–or less.


Only these items are accepted curbside in Bowling Green. Everything must be loose –nothing in bags–no bags. FIBER—newspaper,magazines, office paper (No  shredded paper curbside), cardboard (including paperboard i.e. cereal boxes etc.) CONTAINERS—Steel and Aluminum cans, plastic bottles and jars (NO other plastic)

In addition to the above the following are accepted at the 24 hr dropoff – GLASS bottles and jars (no other glass), shredded paper (in bags), aluminum foil (clean), books (hard and soft cover no wire spiral binding)