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The glass man cometh


It’s a mantra everyone in Missoula knows by heart: “Missoula doesn’t recycle glass.”

That’s about to change. Missoula Valley Recycling (MVR) will begin providing the service for its customers on Feb. 1.

“I saw an invitation to a birthday party recently and it said ‘don’t bring glass bottles,’” MVR’s Tom Ernst said. “People are changing their consumer habits and not buying glass anymore because they can’t recycle it.”

Glass cometh from sand, and to sand shall it return, according to Ernst’s plan. MVR will collect the glass and then pay Ozzie’s Oil to crush it into a fine sand.

“Right now Ozzie’s got a guy who wants 50 tons of the stuff for a water filtration project,” Ernst said. “If we get to the point where Ozzie can start selling this stuff, we won’t have to pay him to grind it. I hope he can market the product because that’s not what we do.”

Uses for the sand are many: water filtration, landscaping, sand bags, traction on winter roads and gardening. The last time Missoula tried glass recycling, the raw glass was ground into “cutlets,” chunks of glass with sharp edges, and laid in road beds.

Ernst said that road workers complained about the danger of working with the material. Soon BFI, which operated the program, told Missoula that the company was receiving too much glass.

This time around, Ernst is limiting his customers to one 20-gallon bin of glass per pickup because his trucks and trailers that troll the neighborhoods for recyclables don’t have the carrying capacity to handle more. The cost for the service will run consumers $1 more per month on their bill.

Asked about the longevity of his program, Ernst hesitates, then answers, “This is the best shot we’ve got right now. It’s going to take community support. If they don’t want to pay, they can throw it away. So far I haven’t gotten a single negative response.”

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