Empire Editorial: Message in a bottle

Posted: Friday, January 06, 2006

It took one curious recycler to shatter the illusion of many Juneau residents that their diligent washing and depositing of glass bottles at the city's recycling center meant they were saving the dump from filling up on glass.

They weren't, and the city and its waste contractor, Waste Management, should have done more to make them aware that their dutifully recycled bottles were ending up essentially in the same place as the rest of their garbage.

This week a recycler who dropped off his bottles at the center stood and watched as workers carted off the bin and dumped them. It angered him enough to contact this newspaper, which then questioned city and dump officials.

It turns out that the city has stopped crushing glass for use as road-building or other materials. Dump officials say it's still going to good use - as a dump-leveling agent that saves them from having to buy quarried pebbles - but that's little comfort to residents who thought they were doing more for the environment.

Officials seem to have a legitimate reason for discontinuing glass recycling: There's no money in it, and no market for the materials. What is inexcusable is allowing household recyclers to carry on thinking that their regular trips to the recycling center will keep materials out of the dump. If the city and Waste Management still want the public to bring in separated bottles as a way of saving quarried rock, they should state that clearly, and post the change at the drop-off site.

This week's episode, though, just feeds the widely whispered theory that all recyclables end up on the trash heap.

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