In 2010, Martin NoRunner, founder of the Missoula curbside pickup service i.e. Recycling, started hoarding glass in storage units. There was no existing way to reuse the material, but he assumed some outlet would soon emerge. Four years later, NoRunner's still collecting and storing glass—and he's still looking for something to do with it.
It's not that NoRunner hasn't tried to find an application for his customers' glass. In 2012, he bought a pulverizer and gave the sand-sized shards to a man who hoped to use the material to make retaining wall blocks. That project, however, turned out not to be viable. Then, in October 2013, NoRunner heard about a large-capacity pulverizer in Livingston that was sending its glass to Colorado, for reuse by Coors. NoRunner started amassing a new stockpile of glass in an effort to get 90 tons—enough to fill a train car. When Coors cut back on its demand for recycled glass in February of this year, the Livingston pulverizer could no longer accept i.e.'s contribution.
"When I heard that," says NoRunner, "I called Republic."
Missoula's primary waste-management company, Republic Services, had recently taken over the glass recycling program at the Target store on Reserve Street, and NoRunner wanted to find out if he could contribute his cache. As various media outlets reported last month, however, much of the glass Republic is supposed to recycle ends up in the landfill due to contamination.
The situation left NoRunner back at square one: holding thousands of pounds of glass, with nowhere to take it. Now he's making one final push to solve his—and Missoula's—inability to find a way to reuse glass. Over the next year, he hopes to add some 450 new customers to his current roster of about 100. If he can do this, NoRunner thinks he'll have a sufficiently large and consistent source of glass that a viable use for it will emerge. The most practical and likely application would be as an ingredient in asphalt.
"I would just like to see it implemented in our alternative pathways in town—for hiking, biking, running ...," he says. "Green transportation, basically, made out of green materials."