Majority of Saskatoon's household glass not recycled

People who painstaking rinse glass pickle, mayo and ketchup jars for recycling may be surprised by what really happens once they're in the blue Loraas bins.

Most of the glass in blue bins is simply buried at private landfill

The glass mound at the Loraas landfill. (Dan Zakreski/CBC)

Anyone in Saskatoon with a kitchen and a blue recycle bin knows the drill.

When you're done with that glass jar of pickles, or ketchup or mayonnaise, you're supposed to carefully rinse out the jar, get rid of the lid and place the jar in the blue recycling bin.

The city pays Loraas Recycle to collect and recycle the glass, along with paper and plastic. Homeowners pay a recycling fee as part of our taxes.

But what happens to this glass?

"The City understands Loraas has been re-using a significant amount of glass collected from the program in road-base construction and currently has a stockpile of glass at their landfill facility for future re-use," officials said by e-mail in response to questions from CBC.

Not so, says Loraas.

Better than 50 per cent would get broken, there's no doubt about it- Dwight Grayston

More than half of the household glass that comes into its Saskatoon handling operation ends up broken and buried at the company's landfill north of the city.

The glass jars that don't break on the way to the plant, and survive getting dumped from a truck onto a concrete floor, are hauled to the landfill and stored in a makeshift pile.

Dwight Grayston at Loraas Recycling plant. (CBC)
"Realistically, if you wanted all of the glass jars to survive, it would have to be collected in a separate stream. That of course comes with all of the additional costs, separate collection system, separate processing system, we could get all of the glass jars to survive if we chose to do that. It would be a very expensive choice to make," said Dwight Grayston with Loraas.

"I mean we could do it, if we chose to, but I'm not necessarily sure that would be the best way to use our resources, which are limited."

The glass stream

Grayston said that glass only accounts for about five per cent of the material collected from the blue bins. The majority of the products collected from the bins are cardboard, newspapers, magazines, drink containers and a variety of plastics.

The Saskatoon plant successfully handles 95 per cent of these materials. Five per cent of the products don't make it, though, and it's buried at the company's landfill.

Broken glass and shredded paper make up the bulk of material that can't be recycled, he said.

Grayston said no one has really looked at how much of the glass is broken in transit.

"We haven't really done any studies on how much glass is coming in versus how much gets done, better than 50 per cent would get broken, there's no doubt about it."