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Glass Recycling in Greenville, South Carolina

 

             Glass recycling was stopped in Greenville, South Carolina not too long ago. According to Wendy McNatt, Greenville County’s recycling coordinator, and the website “Upstate Forever,” this was because there “are no longer any local materials recovery facilities (MRFs) that accept glass.” One of the two MRFs (like in the photos to the left and right) in our community shut down, along with the glass processing plant. Not too long after this happened, our remaining MRF no longer accepted glass recycling either. Since commodities on recycling follow oil prices, the value of glass, paper, metal, and plastic drastically dropped along with the oil. In order to keep glass as a recyclable in Greenville, there would have been a greater expense than worth to simply ship the glass to an area that could process the glass.

            Despite the fact that glass is not toxic, much like other recyclables, not harmful to the environment, and made out of mostly sand,  the truth behind sending glass to a dump is that it takes about one million years for glass to be decomposed, obviously much slower than it takes for the landfill to fill with glass, especially if this issue continues to go “unsolved.” Even though it is not harmful to our environment, sending the glass to the landfills instead of the recycling plant causes the landfills to build up faster. It truly is a shame that we have discontinued recycling glass because there are so many other uses for recycled glass in our world, it being one of the most universal recyclables. Our community attempts to create a “peace of mind” by saying things like “MRF technology has evolved, and cartons and tetra-packs – such as those for soymilk, soup, boxed wine, and juice boxes – CAN now be accepted into the single-stream recycling process,” but glass is still being sent to the landfill and it doesn’t look to be solved anytime soon without some kind of miraculous increase in the value of oil and glass (Upstate Forever). My interest in this problem in my community sparked me to try to make a difference in my personal, school community in order to educate others on this issue.

The photo above is of the recycled glass that Greenville used to collect, but now, with Greenville growing incredibly fast coupled with the discontinuation of glass, possibly double of this will be sent to the landfill rather than being repurposed. To further read the article that this image came from, click the photo.

Please take this survey to help me get a good idea of recycling around the world! 🙂🌎

 

My “Call to Action” through this project was that I wanted people to be aware of this issue. I wanted to know how much people knew about this problem and how they decided to deal with it, all while educating them.

I posted a survey about this issue to the upper school students at my school, trying to get a grasp of what their recycling was like at home and I received a number of responses. I was surprised and almost pleased with some of the answers and saddened by some others.

With the results,  I found that my fellow classmates did recycle a lot in general (and recycled glass when they could), but ever since Greenville county has discontinued recycling, they have been throwing their glass in the trash rather than trying to find another use of the glass. This made me realize that the discontinuing of glass actually is causing the volume of waste going to the landfill to increase and grow. Glass takes 1,000,000 (one MILLION) years to break down, which means that it will still be in the landfills WAY longer than the other items of waste in the landfills!  

Results from the survey from my school:

(click through the slide to see the other questions and answers)


Through the results I was able to find that most people recycle at home either all of the time or when they could, which was great! But, sadly enough, ever since Greenville no longer recycles glass, people have been tossing the empty bottles and jars in the trash, even though those people now throwing the glass away used to recycle glass when it was available. With these results, I wondered what I could do within my community that would make people aware of the issue that would also be interactive. I searched for many different things I could do and decided on a craft that would be reusing glass in a positive and creative way.

 

DIY uses for recycled glass:

Click on the photos for the link of the craft!!

Try this poll to vote which project you would like to try!

                                                  

With these projects that I found on Pinterest, I wanted to do something that I could use to interact with some of the middle schoolers at my school. I decided to team up with the 6th grade ceramics class and make stepping stones with them. This would be both fun and decorative for the garden at our school!

But, before I can jump into this project, I will need to do a lot of prepping…

Glass stepping stones with the 6th graders:

The first thing that I had to do was acquire some recycled and used glass which was what is what the main idea of this project. So, I decided to hold a glass competition among the Upper School advisees for an entire week. Advisees are the small groups that are grade specific and they do activities together, similar to a homeroom. I asked the Upper school students to bring in their used glass bottles or jars that they were no longer using or that they would be otherwise throwing away. I collected a lot of glass over this week (maybe too much 😉 haha). I loved to see how many people actually reached out to tell me that they loved the idea and how many people also were disappointed with the discontinuation of the glass recycling in Greenville. This showed me that there are some issues that we aren’t talking about that we all agree on, even in such a small-knit community! 

 

This may not seem like a lot of glass in these bags, but my car was full and this was only one of the days that I collected glass from my school. Every bag in my car is filled to the brim with glass jars and bottles!

        The next step was to meet the students that I would be doing this project, so I visited their class one day to introduce them to my project and have them brainstorm some ideas for what they wanted to make their stepping stones into. I brought a handout that had just a circle on it, so they could draw what they would like in the circle and thus would be their brainstorming for their stepping stones. Here is the class showing off their drawing skills!!

I had them draw what they think of when they think of the environment and gave them some ideas of how to start off with their project. I gave examples of flowers, bees, and sunshine, along with asking them to start with drawing a border around their circle. 

They did a great job with coming up with their own ideas!

The next thing I had to do was prep the glass to be used as mosaic pieces. I had to take the labels off and Since most of the glass that was collected at school was clear, that means that I would need to stain the glass first. I had a bunch of green and brown glass already, so I decided to choose other colors for the clear glass. I went to Lowes and found glass stain and stained the glass orange and blue. I then broke the stained jars up into small bits.

The next step to this project was meeting back up with the kids and doing the project. I used two different instructions to guide me while I helped the class do their stepping stones (A & B). The project was a success and they looked great!! 

The stepping stones were put in the pathway of our garden and they looked very colorful and nice!! (BELOW IS A GALLERY WHERE YOU CAN SEE ALL OF THE STEPPING STONES ON DISPLAY! CLICK THROUGH TO SEE MORE)

 The boys that made these attempted to make specific environmentally inspired pictures out of the glass but they aren't always noticeable. Try to see if you can identify which ones are trees, a turtle, an owl, and a bird! 

After the project…

I want to keep people aware of this issue in my community. In thinking about how I could help people stay aware of the glass recycling issue in Greenville– that doesn’t seem to be going away in the near future– I was hoping to come up with other ideas to be creative with glass that I could use to either interact with the middle schoolers, lower schoolers, or the upper schoolers at my school to continue this. I am hoping to maybe make this project an annual event or even joining up with the environmental club to establish “buddies” with the middle schoolers to make an environmental club in the middle school. The glass stepping stones would be a great edition to add to the school’s garden each year!

 

Thank you so much for being a part of this by reading until the end!

I would love to hear your feedback, so if you have any further questions, or any ideas that could help me try to continue the awareness for the lack of glass recycling in my community, feel free to leave me a suggestion in the comment box below!! Thank you! 🙂 

I also encourage you to recycle whenever possible because we were given one Earth, we should take care of it!

******BEFORE SUBMITTING COMMENTS, PLEASE PUT YOUR FIRST NAME AND LAST INITIAL ALONG WITH WHERE YOU ARE FROM!****** WOULD LOVE TO SEE WHERE EVERYONE IS FROM!

 

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Sources used:

Upstate Forever

Wendy McNatt, Greenville County Recycling Coordinator

Albumizr  to create my slideshow

Intimate weddings and ehow to make the stepping stones

Quackit to link a comment section

SurveyMonkey (to analyze my results for the survey that I conducted at my school click here)

Seattlepi for some good glass facts

 

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COMMENTS: 1
  1. April 27, 2017 by Mia W.

    I love your project. The website has a lot of interesting information and I like how you incorporated younger kids into your project to promote change.

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