Volume 43, Issue 7 - July 2008

the Farnady Files 

Being Green
Reuse That Glass Again and Again 
by Dez Farnady

Kermit told us that it wasnít easy being green when he had no idea how true that was to become. Green is the buzzword of the 21st century, although it may be a bit late to be vogue. When we were green we did not even know it. We first recycled glass containers when I was a kid and we drank our juice from jelly jars because we could (and because our parents did not trust us with the good glasses). We have forgotten how efficient our grandfathers were in re-using their glass bottles long before they had to.

I did not discover the real recycling of glass until my college days on the beaches of Southern California. Thatís where I first experienced the natural ability of the world to reclaim glass. Everything from soft drinks to beer and wine came in glass containers. Glass cuts in the sand were rare, in spite of the number of broken bottles on the beach on a Labor Day weekend and the number of bare feet stomping through the sand. The natural movement of the sand grinds up the glass fast, first by sanding off the sharp edges. Ultimately glass bottle pieces would become strange-shaped sandblasted chunks of glass until they finally disappeared altogether to become sand again. Mother Nature took back her own. 

Take It Away 
Glass makers, float lines and bottle makers need cullet or broken old glass for flux to mix with the raw materials to help that pile of sand become shiny new glass. There is no better recycling than that. At the fabricator level, we recycled broken glass by dumping all breakage and cullet into large container-size dumpsters to be sent to the bottle makers for the same purpose. Back when we started this process it was a moneymaker, because not only did they haul it away but they paid for the privilege. 

Meanwhile, the soft drink makers figured out that plastic was cheaper. Seems like a strange concept today when a barrel of oil is about a hundred dollars, but that was the wisdom of the time. So one day, much to our surprise, we found out that bottle makers did not want the cullet anymore and landfills were charging a chunk to haul it and dump it. It seemed like it took only a matter of months for the dumpster loads of broken glass to go from side income to a regular expense. 

Economics is a strange business when you consider the ultimate price we pay for the whole plastic bottle industry. I am not so sure that it is more economical to fill the landfills with plastics that take hundreds of years to break down as opposed to a piece of glass that will do it in months. Bottling plants used to squawk about the cost of re-using or recycling glass bottles and now look at what we pay for the recycling of all those plastic containers. Realizing the rapidly increasing speed with which we are burying ourselves in our own solid waste products as the landfills start to overflow, suddenly we have become aware of our self-induced plight. Now, with our new environmental concerns, we have been forced to become recycling-conscious, particularly with the petroleum-based waste materials of today. 

Now that the modern concept of drinking water out of plastic bottles at a buck a bottle or more has become the fashion, plastic even will crowd out what little glass is left in the landfills. I didnít know how anyone figured out that you could make serious money on what comes out of the tap for free, until I found out that the soft drink makers were the big producers. They stopped putting the syrup and bubbles in the bottles and just left the water to sell to the suckers who did not like the stuff with the syrup in it.

I have never believed in paying for water. But, then, I also drink wine, because I have a ďgreen conscienceĒ and itís an easy way to be green. Good wine comes only in recyclable glass bottles. The wine industry in this country is growing like crazy, driving an increasing demand for glass bottles. And no one drinks wine out of a plastic cup filled from a plastic bottle. 

Dez Farnady serves as the general manager of Royalite Manufacturing Inc., a skylight manufacturer in San Carlos, Calif. His column appears monthly. Mr. Farnadyís opinions are solely his own and not necessarily those of this magazine.

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