Be green and save Calgary money! Throw your glass in the garbage!


Yesterday while listening to the Rutherford show, I was reminded of one of our many examples of Calgary City Hall putting the cart before the horse in their pursuit of high density city where people ride bikes to work and recycle damn near everything. What I am on about today is glass.

While the city of Calgary is asking us to spend time and water washing and separating our glass products so that they can be put into our blue bins for recycling, they really have utterly no idea what to do with the glass once they get it. Glass is really a generally unrealistic product to recycle at this time. It is hard to work with and clean and there is no cost effective use for the end product. Glass is relatively cheap to produce new and used glass is simply too impure and expensive to try and form into new glass products.

While Calgarians have been diligently washing their old jam jars and setting them aside in their blue bins, unfortunately all they have been doing is participating in one of our more expensive and egregious forms of greenwashing.

Calgary’s sorted, cleaned, crushed and transported glass has been sitting in a 10,000 tonne mountain at the Spyhill landfill!.

It is one thing to make a recycled product, it is a whole other ballpark to create a demand for it.

The energy, water and labor involved in recycling our glass in Calgary brings us a near useless end product at a cost of $29 per tonne which now is languishing at the dump. A good make work project I guess but I would rather that labor had been dedicated to patching potholes.

But wait!! In a brainstorm city engineers have found a use for all this glass!! They are going to bury it!

Um, isn’t that what would have happened had we simply put the glass in the garbage in the first place? Tell me again why we are spending all this money, water and energy to clean and sort the stuff?

Yes, the city is going to use the pile of glass as aggregate for roads within the city dump (in other words, burying the glass at the dump). While they do speak of using the glass for other aggregate projects, it really means little as 10,000 tonnes is actually a relatively small volume in the aggregate world. What is not small about 10,000 tonnes of crushed and cleaned glass is the cost.

Gravel which is typically used as road base aggregate can run around $6 per tonne as compared to the $29 per tonne for cleaned crushed glass. This means our mountain of recycled glass is worth about $60,000 but came at a cost of around $290,000. That is an expenditure of $230,000 of taxpayers dollars for actions that used extra water and energy for utterly no use thus making it actually more environmentally damaging than simply tossing the glass in the trash in the first place.

It is very simple to see what is worth recycling. Just look for whatever the private market is willing to pay money for. Metals are well worth recycling thus many businesses that buy scrap metal. Bottles and cans have deposits on them that fund the recycling. Only the cans are really viable on their own. The bottles just make more crushed glass. Some paper products are worth recycling into shingles and such. Plastics are pretty much better in the landfill with the glass.

If we are truly interested in being “green” let’s start to focus on reality with what we are doing then.

Calgary’s (and many other cities) mountain of glass is simply an embarrassment and a testament to people in power who have let their ideals override reality.


Druh Farrell eager to leap into another tax-funded boondoggle.

 While we still await the final costs for the still delayed disaster that some call the “peace” bridge, Druh Farrell the chief proponent of that embarrassment to the city is already trying to have more tax dollars potentially destroyed through fast-tracking a program where the city will compost our coffee grounds.

 The merit of having government take over composting for us is debatable at best and I will be posting some information on the myth of a landfill crisis and the benefits of recycling below.

 Calgary is to begin a $1.3 million pilot project with 8000 homes where a third bin will be added to their fast growing collection of waste bins. The new bin will be for organic waste that can theoretically be converted into a useful compost. I am happy at least that the city is doing a pilot program rather than jumping neck deep into this notion. This is a responsible way to see if the program needs adjustment or is even worthwhile to pursue as a whole.

 Never one to be bound by responsible actions though, Druh Farrell is furious and is demanding that we fast-track the program into full implementation as soon as possible. Never mind the fact that we don’t even have the facility to deal with the waste (estimated to be $60 million or so). Never mind that we have not tested to see if citizens really like the notion of having a bin full of rotting organic waste sitting in July heat for two weeks at a time. Never mind seeing what a true and total cost estimation of a city-wide program may be. Full speed ahead says Druh!!

 I suspect that Druh realizes that the pilot may expose this program to be a waste and a failure thus her eagerness to rush right into it. I may of course be giving Druh too much credit there.

 We are in a city that constantly claims to be so broke that annual tax hikes are the norm yet our council can’t seem to run out of ways to waste our money. Let’s let this pilot project run it’s entire course, look at the outcomes, and then start to discuss if the entire city needs a third waste bin.

 We rushed into recycling in the first place and ended up with thousands of tonnes of glass that nobody wanted piled in our landfill after having been expensively collected and sorted. Do we have a place for a mountain of compost? How about this Druh, why don’t we store the rotting organics in the middle of your precious Kensington while we try to find a facility to process it. That may take some of the shine from the concept.

 Below is video from Penn and Teller’s series “Bullshit”. I do warn, as the title of the series indicates the show is loaded with expletives. Despite the colorful language, the show is packed with facts and realities of recycling including a live experiment of how gullible well meaning urbanites can be at times. I strongly recommend watching the show in full (not at work and not with kids around).