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The City Journals

Residential glass recycling arrives; coronavirus postpones annual Earth Day Clean-up

Mar 23, 2020 04:03PM ● By Carl Fauver

Taylorsville City’s mayor and three council members recently toured Momentum Recycling to observe how glass is given new life at the facility. (Courtesy WFWRD)

By Carl Fauver | [email protected]

It’s a milestone month for Taylorsville City’s modest effort to protect Mother Earth, as curbside residential glass recycling comes to the community for the first time. However, ongoing coronavirus health concerns have forced the city’s Green Committee to postpone its fifth annual Earth Day Clean-up.

On Tuesday, April 14, Momentum Recycling will collect all sizes, shapes and colors of glass jars from those Taylorsville homes that have paid the $45 start-up and their first $8 monthly fee.

Eleven days after that, the citywide cleanup event was to be held in the northwest parking lot at Taylorsville High School. Now, organizers hope to reschedule it for a later date.

“We had to make the same disappointing decision as many others have, because of the coronavirus, to postpone our annual cleanup day,” Councilman Ernest Burgess said. “At this point, we don’t know when we will be able to reschedule it.”

Burgess is the city council member who liaisons with the Green Committee. He was also one of three Taylorsville City Council members who joined Mayor Kristie Overson on a recent tour of Momentum Recycling (658 South 4050 West). Starting this month, Taylorsville becomes the first westside Salt Lake Valley community to have curbside residential glass pickup.

“We have a threshold we have to reach in order to make it economically viable to do residential glass pick-up, and we are excited Taylorsville is the first westside city to reach that number,” said Momentum Recycling General Manager Jason Utgaard. He, along with Momentum President and CEO John Lair, led a tour of the facility for Burgess and Councilmember Curt Cochran, Council Chairwoman Meredith Harker, Overson and Wasatch Front Waste & Recycling District General Manager Pam Roberts.

“We’ve been working with Momentum for glass processing since 2014,” Roberts said. “In 2015, we started working with them on curbside residential recycling. It’s been going well in Murray, Millcreek, Cottonwood Heights and Holladay. We’re excited to see it expand to Taylorsville now.”

The question is, with that $45 start-up fee (to purchase the 35-gallon glass collection bin) and the $8 monthly fee, will Taylorsville residents want to foot the bill? Overson is confident they will, perhaps while being creative.

“Some residents may decide to share a glass recycling bin with a couple of neighbors to split the cost,” Overson said. “People have told us in surveys they are committed to recycling, so I believe it will succeed. It’s not about the pennies; it’s about saving our globe.”

Until participation forces them to expand, all Taylorsville glass recycling will occur on a single day each month. Once the glass arrives at the Momentum facility, it undergoes a multi-step procedure.

We process the glass at our facility near the (Salt Lake City International) Airport,” Utgaard added. “We separate out contamination, remove metals, cardboard and anything else. Another step in the process removes labels from the glass. Next, it is separated into brown and everything else. Brown glass has iron oxide in it, so it has to be separated. Then it is crushed down to tiny particles called cullet.”

According to the Glass Processing Institute (gpi.org), “Glass is 100% recyclable and can be recycled endlessly without loss in quality or purity — something few food and beverage packaging options can claim.”

“Touring the processing plant was really interesting,” Overson said. “I did not know Momentum is the only glass recycling facility in the state. It is a very interesting process. I learned we really should be buying products packaged in glass. It makes more sense than plastic. I was really impressed with their operation.”

Harker also called the tour enlightening.

“Honestly, I have never thought about recycling glass,” she said. “It was really eye-opening to see their operation — very educational. I was impressed by how clean and efficient it is. You would think there might be pieces of glass all over the place, and you would have to be careful where you step. But it is very clean. I also thought it would be bigger. They get a lot done in not all that much space.”

Like the mayor, Harker is confident Taylorsville residents will embrace the home glass recycle bins, perhaps by sharing them with neighbors.

“We may even have a whole street share a glass recycle bin,” Harker said. “I think any resource we can provide to the community to help protect our environment is important. So, I hope people do it.”

Momentum officials say, unlike many other recyclable materials, glass recycling has not been impacted at all by the recent move in China to begin more carefully scrutinizing the loads of materials that country accepts from the United States.

“Glass is so heavy, it is not economically feasible to ship it very far,” Utgaard said. “Most of the glass we recycle never leaves Utah. Most of it goes to an Owens Corning plant in Nephi that manufactures fiberglass insulation. Glass recycling creates Utah jobs.”

Momentum Recycling employs about 40 people. Officials say about 20% of their workers are recovering addicts affiliated with the Salt Lake Odyssey House, a nonprofit rehabilitation facility specializing in the treatment of substance abuse and mental health.

For more information on the Taylorsville residential glass recycling program, visit the Wasatch Front Waste & Recycling District Website, wasatchfrontwaste.org/glass.

For employment opportunities with Momentum Recycling, visit utah.momentumrecycling.com.

Meanwhile, city officials and Green Committee members are disappointed the unprecedented coronavirus health scare has forced them to postpone the annual spring cleanup drive. Like countless other organizations and entities, they are now monitoring news developments to determine when it might be rescheduled.

To keep abreast of Taylorsville City scheduling changes due to the coronavirus outbreak, visit taylorsvilleut.gov.