Editor’s Note: In 2020 (and 2021), there have been a lot of unanswered questions about life and living, so in our partnership with the Chemical Engineering Service Learning Class at Tulane University, taught by Dr. Julie Albert, we made it our aim to find questions we could answer. The series is called “Dear Big Chem-EZ” (think “Dear Abbey” but with less about “Why does my partner ignore me?” and more about “Can I actually drink my tap water?” and “What’s that smell outside my house?”).
You can look for new pieces every day this week because we love science, we love answers, and we love to know: can we recycle glass in New Orelans?! Let’s take a look! If you have questions you’d like answered, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dear Big Chem-EZ
I know that because glass is not a part of curbside recycling, New Orleans produces a lot of glass waste. Due to its lack of end market, contamination, and cost, glass recycling is very difficult. Is there any glass recycling initiative in New Orleans?
New Orleans is a well-known party city famous for its vast consumption of alcohol. Tons of waste products come from this consumption… have you ever wondered where all of those empty glass bottles go? Two years ago those glass bottles would have just been dumped into landfills. This is largely because recycling glass lacks an end market, has contamination, and is costly to recycle. Now, however, a group of Tulane seniors have decided to do something about all of the glass waste. They have started an organization called Glass Half Full. In fact, ViaNoLAVie published an article about Glass Half Full previously in August 2020. My article will discuss how they recycle glass and how you can help.
Glass Half Full was founded by Franziska Trautmann, Max Steitz, and Max Landy. The organization’s main goal is to make glass recycling accessible throughout the city. Its glass recycling initiative includes a six-step method that turns glass bottles into sand and cullet, a recycled broken or waste glass, that can then be used to make sand bags for disaster relief, coastal restoration and protection, and eco-construction. It can also be used as décor for different art projects. The first step in their recycling process is collecting glass from their two drop-off hubs across New Orleans which can be found on their website. They then transport the glass to their in-house processing facility. The third step is sorting the glass by color and disposing of any non-glass material. Next, the bottles are ground, crushed, and tumbled to make sand and cullet. Any non-sand material is then filtered out. Finally, the sand and cullet are separated into different products.
Currently, Glass Half Full is collecting and processing around 30,000 pounds of glass per week. They do it mainly by hand, but they also use a small machine to help them crush the glass. They are fundraising to purchase a large pulverizing machine in order to be able to process more glass automatically. With this automated process they will be able to easily reduce the cost of processing as well as the contamination inside the finished products. If you are interested in helping out with the glass initiative in New Orleans, you can find more information about it at: https://glasshalffullnola.org/.