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Dennis recycling program offers clear solution for Cape Cod

September 17, 2018

SOUTH DENNIS, Mass. (AP) — The town of Dennis is paving the road to the future for regional glass recycling, with help from a new state grant.

“It basically takes glass, crushes it up and then you use it for pavement projects,” Selectman Paul McCormick, board chairman, said about the new program, which is expected to start collecting recyclables by December. “You get to use the product again locally.”

In July, the town was notified it was one of two recipients of a $120,500 Sustainable Materials Recovery Program grant from the Massachusetts Department of Environment Protection, intended to assist with startup costs for a glass-recycling facility. The Dennis facility will be sited at the town’s transfer station on Theophilus F. Smith Road, according to DPW director David Johansen.

Once it’s up and running, the facility will give Cape and islands towns — which have been left scrambling since the state’s only glass recycling plant closed in June — a local solution for disposing of glass recyclables, with the added bonus of being able to use the recycled product in public works projects.

According to Johansen, nearby municipalities that have sorted recycling programs can pay a fee to deposit glass recyclables at the Dennis facility. Every six months, a vendor contracted through the nonprofit Northeast Resource Recovery Association will crush the glass and turn it into processed glass aggregate. The material can then be used in place of natural aggregate materials like gravel or crushed stone as a subbase layer in paving projects such as sidewalks, drainage beds or parking lots, according to the DEP.

“PGA is glass that has been crushed down to 3/8-inch diameter or less,” said Emma Brimdyr, a Dennis native and senior at the Worchester Polytechnic Institute who spent the summer helping the town research how to implement the program. “It’s really amazing because it takes out all the shards. You can walk on it barefoot or you can hold it in your hand.”

Once the glass is ground, it can be sold by the town or used by the municipalities, which each commit to collecting an amount of PGA equal to the tonnage of recyclables they dropped off, Johansen said.

“They can use it on their own job sites and hopefully save a few bucks in the process,” he said, adding that individuals can also pay to bring glass recyclables to the facility.

In total, Cape towns produce about 2,000 tons of glass recyclables annually, Johansen said, with about 300 of those tons coming from Dennis.

The rate of tonnage produced on Cape is higher than many other Massachusetts towns because of the number of glass-bottled beverages consumed in the busy summer season, according to Brimdyr.

“In the summertime everybody comes to Cape Cod and drinks,” she said. “We have tons of bars and tons of people coming. That accounts for a big boost in annual tonnage.”

The Dennis recycling program is gearing up at a time when many glass recycling plants are shutting down, leaving local municipalities paying more to haul those recyclables out of state.

The closures, combined with China’s recent reluctance to continue accepting massive quantities of often contaminated recyclables from the U.S., has sent the cost of glass recycling soaring, Brimdyr said.

The problem came to a head in June — not long before the state’s deadline for submitting the grant application — when Dennis officials and members of the town’s Solid Waste and Recycling Committee who were working on the project got word that that the state’s only glass recycling plant had shut its doors, she said.

The plant, which was located in Franklin, had lost its only big customer earlier in the year when a nearby glass bottling factory also closed.

“They closed on Friday and said, ‘Monday we’re no longer accepting anything,’” Brimdyr said of the plant. “It was a mess.”

Brimdyr reached out to Cape towns to ask what they were doing with their glass in light of the closure.

“All of them were just kind of panicking about it,” she said, adding that for most, the cost of glass recycling jumped up from $25-$35 per ton to $85-$95 per ton, seemingly overnight.

As Dennis pressed ahead with the grant application, about a dozen Cape towns sent letters to the DEP in support of the effort, and several have expressed interest in participating once the facility is up and running, according to Johansen.

“We believe that we are going to offer a more affordable solution for Cape communities,” he said.

In addition, Johansen says, the solution is also more sustainable.

“It truly closes the recycling loop right here on the Cape,” he said.

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Online: https://bit.ly/2NfIaKZ

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Information from: Cape Cod (Mass.) Times, http://www.capecodtimes.com

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