The Eco Depot halted its glass-recycling program in 2009, as there was very little use for the crushed glass beyond being used as cover in landfills.
But due to popular demand, Heal brought back the program in April 2010.
“A lot of municipalities don’t collect glass, so we’re one of the few that actually do,” General Manager Lindsay explained, adding that many communities just use glass to cover up garbage that goes into the landfill, which means that after taking the time “to wash it and take the labels off and the lids and going through all that trouble… it’s still going to the landfill at the end of the day.”
Heal didn’t want that to happen in Fort St. John, so she began looking at other ways to use the recycled glass, and has come up with an innovative new project.
The Eco Depot has obtained a glass pulverizer, and they’re ready to start recycling the region’s waste glass.
Heal said she’s pleased with the new machine.
“We finally have a use for the glass that we collect in this region,” she said. “We just live too far north to ship it down to Vancouver or ship it to a smelter, so we need to find a local use for it.”
Unlike the depot’s glass crusher, which breaks the glass down into large chunks and has bits of labels and lids strewn throughout, the glass pulverizer grinds the glass into much smaller pieces and removes most of the paper labels attached.
“We found it really difficult to get rid of it, so we had to find a different machine, a different purpose for it. So now that we have our glass pulverizer we can turn it into sand, we can turn it into gravel, whatever consistency we need it , we can turn it into that consistency. It’s amazing the number of uses, if you can use sand for it, if you can use gravel for it, [then] you can use glass for it,” said Heal.
The pulverizer currently sits offsite of the Eco Depot in a yard on the frontage road along the Alaska Highway. Glass ‘pebbles’ are strewn over the yard, providing better traction for visiting vehicles and preventing the area from accumulating mud in wet weather.
The little glass pieces have been rounded in the pulverizer, so there’s no concern about sharp edges.
The pulverizer can take glass food and beverage containers, preferably without the lids, and Heal said it’s just fine to leave the labels on, as not only will the machine remove the labels from the glass, but you’ll save water by not soaking the containers.
However, they will not take ceramics, plate glass, dishes and drinking glasses or the old style light bulbs.
Beyond the pulverizer, Heal is also expanding their ability to accommodate other items for recycling in Fort St. John.
The business will now take household audio equipment, including VCRs, DVD players, stereos, video cameras, CD players, MP3 players telephone, radios and satellite receivers.
Heal added they even take digital picture frames.
Eventually Heal wants to be able to recycle other household items, such as microwaves and vacuum cleaners.
Also included among new recyclable items are CFL light bulbs and fluorescent light tubes, as well as mercury themostats. It’s important not to throw these items in the garbage as they contain small amounts of mercury, which can be very harmful to the environment, explained Heal.
She added that the old style light bulbs are just fine to put into the garbage.
Now that she’s dealt with the glass issue, another big project Heal is working on is bringing Styrofoam recycling to the Peace Region.
“Our big plan for that is to have a mobile unit so it can do directly to Dawson Creek, to Chetwynd, to Tumbler Ridge and process it right there,” she said,
“Everyone has so much of it, it’s never ending. It just seems to show up.”
Heal stated that Styrofoam is really just bits of plastic with air injected into it. What the machine in the mobile unit would do is heat up the Styrofoam and extrude the air out of it.
“Once you heat it up, you can take 100 egg cartons and end up with a little tiny ball of plastic. It’s amazing,” she said,
“But the problem with Styrofoam, it is so bulky and so light [that] to ship it to the Eco Depot on trucks would be very inefficient for the environment [and] cost wise.”
Because the Regional District spans such a distance, Heal said to have a mobile unit go right on site that will process all the Styrofoam and then bring it back to be recycled would have less environmental impact.
Recycled Styrofoam is shipped to the U.S. and can be made into things like DVD cases and car door handles, said Heal.
Heal joked that pretty soon there won’t be any need for garbage collection in Fort St. John.
“You won’t have any garbage, you’ll be able to give your garbage can back to the city and go ‘I don’t need it,’” she laughed.
She added that her goal has been, and always will be, to get people thinking about recycling and doing what they can for the environment.
For more information about recycling programs, call the Eco Depot at 250-785-0300.