Using data provided by local material recovery facilities (MRFs), it is estimated that 9 percent of single-stream curbside material collected in South Carolina is glass. Applying that percentage to the total residential single stream reported in FY 2015 of 106,884 tons, more than 9,600 tons of glass was included in the single stream material collected. In addition, using data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, it is estimated that South Carolina generated more than 180,000 tons of glass in FY 2015 and roughly 16,000 tons were recycled.  Forty-eight (48) percent of glass is captured through collection in curbside recycling carts.

Glass can also be collected is at convenience center drop off sites. These sites normally take glass separated by color – amber, green and flint (clear). Glass once collected, because of its durability, can be stored outside in bunkers until there is enough quantity for a processor to pick up the material and haul it to their site.  The closest glass processor to South Carolina is Strategic Materials with locations in Wilson, NC and Atlanta, GA. South Carolina has several public and private material recovery facilities (MRFs) who process glass.  The MRFs currently taking glass in SC are Sonoco Recycling in Columbia, Horry County Solid Waste Authority, North Augusta, and Greenwood. Pratt Recycling’s MRF in Duncan discontinued glass recycling in 2016. South Carolina has glass recycling bunkers in the following counties: Darlington, Georgetown, Greenwood, Hampton, Horry and Lexington, Oconee and York. 

Glass is a commodity in SC that has faced market challenges due to its low value, contamination effect, transportation and processing costs. Glass is abrasive to sorting equipment and gets embedded in other materials like paper and cardboard when commingled in a recycling cart. In terms of value, a ton of clean, color separated glass may be sold for $10-32 ton as compared to three-mix, all color glass from MRFs which has no value or negative value.  This compares to a ton of cardboard which may be sold to a recycled paper mill for $130/ton or a plastic bale for $180/ton.  Glass has often been recycled by MRFs at a loss but so long as markets were good, the value of the other recyclables offset the cost to recycle the glass. In recent commodity fluctuations, MRFs cost tolerance for this practice has disappeared and as a result they have started flexible price contracting with local governments to share the costs when commodity prices are down and share revenues when commodity prices go back up. 

Although there is no bottle to bottle glass recycling in South Carolina, when glass is collected there are several re-use applications for glass in the state. Fisher Recycling in Charleston, SC constructs countertops with recycled glass. Fisher Recycling solely provides commercial collection of glass and collects glass bottles from businesses such as restaurants and bars. In addition, the Horry County Solid Waste Authority accepts residential glass and has invested in glass crushing equipment to create a crushed glass product suitable for landscape and roadbed applications. ReWined in Charleston, SC crafts the base of repurposed wine bottles from restaurants into candle vessels with a 100% natural soy wax. Fisher Recycling takes the necks of the bottles from ReWined and recycles them into their countertops.

The state is looking at a strategy to revive drop-off center recycling for glass through the increased use of bunkers.  This would involve the practice of color separating the glass at the recycling center when dropped off by residents. In addition, another idea for glass that has yet to be tested in SC but may be a possible solution is that glass can be put into a thick durable bag, the bags can then be placed in the cart and then sorted out at the MRF for opening and processing.

Fast Facts

·         Glass is 100% recyclable and can be recycled endlessly without any loss in purity

·         More than 6,288 tons of glass was recycled in SC during 2015

·         For every 1,000 tons of recycled glass, 8 jobs are created