Forsyth County residents can drop off their glass at three recycling centers
• Cumming: 351 Tolbert Street
• South Forsyth: 3678 Old Atlanta Road
• North Forsyth: 3560 Settingdown Road
* Centers have separate bins for each color glass
Forsyth County resident Jan Butler was surprised when she found out her recycling company was no longer accepting glass.
“There was no big deal made about it, and I think that was deliberate,” she said. “I take mine to the county now, but I think many people still don’t know the [curbside] glass is just [thrown out]. If we all recycle it, it’s much better for the community.”
Though Forsyth County does not provide curbside trash pickup, meaning residents who want the service must contract with private haulers such as Advanced Disposal Services, many have still been affected by the halt in glass recycling.
The phenomenon is not contained to Forsyth County; in the last year or so, an increasing number of counties, many of which do offer government-provided waste disposal, have stopped accepting glass in residents’ recycling bins.
“Keep America Beautiful, along with Keep Georgia Beautiful, held glass summits for the state of Georgia which [brought together] recycling companies, waste haulers and a lot of people like myself who deal with municipalities,” said Tammy Wright, manager of environmental programs for Forsyth County’s Recycling and Solid Waste Department. “There, they discussed the why’s and how’s, and the least represented group was the waste haulers. I understand their position, but if you ask one of them, they’ll explain [the halt] by saying there’s no market for glass.
“That’s not [entirely] true. There’s a good market for good, clean quality glass, but when you put it curbside with other [recyclables], it gets taken to a sorting facility and machinery sorts it. By the time it gets there, it’s generally broken, and the brown, green and clear glass is all mixed together and the broken glass gets more broken and jams up the machines.”
Wright said one of the things many people don’t understand is that recycling is like any other commodity that can be bought and distributed.
“So many people think, ‘It’s just recycling that I throw in a bin,’” she said. “But it’s actually pretty complicated, because as much as a consumer wants to recycle, if there’s no market for it, no one is going to want to pick it up and use it. Glass is a hazard and it’s a wear and tear on machinery, and what comes out on other end is not valuable enough to turn around and sell it.”
It is not just glass that has become more difficult to recycle.
“Five years ago, we made about $60,000 a year on plastic at the county’s recycling centers,” Wright said. “Now we make $18,000 per year, and that’s just within a few years. It’s really due to the volume increase.
“Recycling is kind of like a stock market. People recycle so they can take [used] items and make another product. But it all has to do with demand of that other product — if the [demand] is not there, or there’s a surplus, the [price] goes down.”
Some counties and cities, such as Alpharetta, are trying to come up with alternative ways to continue recycling glass, though Wright said she doesn’t see a curbside option possible in the near future.
The good news, she said, is that Forsyth has three recycling centers where residents can take their glass.
Brown glass, she added, almost always goes back to breweries.
“We’re in a real ugly transition period right now, but we encourage people to bring to the centers,” Wright said. “It’s bad now, but I think this is going to force new processes and innovations to make recycling better.”