Why No Glass?

Why can’t glass be recycled at the curb in St. John’s?

This is the most frequently asked question about the City’s recycling program. Most municipalities in Canada have been collecting glass for recycling for over 30 years, so why doesn’t St. John’s recycle it?

In developing the Curbit recycling program, which began in 2010, the City asked several Canadian municipalities that had 10 to 20 years-experience running a curbside recycling program what they might do differently if they could start all over again.

The number one answer was to not include glass, because:

  • broken glass is an occupational health and safety issue for recycling sorters;
  • shards of broken glass can contaminate other recycling material; and
  • glass has a very low market value and low demand which often leads it to be stockpiled or landfilled.

Glass is not in demand in the recycling marketplace. The next time you’re at the grocery store compare how many plastic and glass containers are used; you’ll find there is far more plastic.

High gasoline prices, glass breaking, and plastic being inexpensive all contribute to less glass being used for food packaging, resulting in lower demand for it in the recycling marketplace. We can’t collect glass items if there is nowhere to have it recycled.

Broken glass easily contaminates other recycling material which is a problem for the manufacturers buying it. Broken glass in with cardboard, plastic and metal results in an inferior product that manufacturers don’t want as their equipment becomes jammed and parts break more frequently, and overall the equipment does not work as smoothly when glass is present.

The City’s decision to not take glass is a big part of the success in marketing our recycling materials.

The markets your recycling is sent to are primarily located in Canada and there has been no interruption in having what we collect from you recycled – in fact, they want our recycling due to its low contamination.


Did You Know…

A recent waste audit (MMSB 2021) shows that less than 2% of what is put in the garbage in St. John’s is glass jars and bottles – while a whopping 11.5% is recyclable right at the curb.

Glass recycling is a nice idea, but it is not feasible. And not much of our waste is glass.

Aluminum, plastic, steel/tin, tetra pak and milk containers are all recyclable at the curb in St. John’s, and are all more common in households’ waste stream than glass.