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Glass back in the clear

North Elba Transfer Station accepts it again for recycling

Glass sits in a recycling bin at the North Elba Transfer Station last year. Cleaning the recyclables is required, though someone did not clean these particular items. (Enterprise photo — Andy Flynn)

LAKE PLACID — The North Elba Transfer Station is accepting non-redeemable glass again.

The transfer station stopped accepting non-redeemable glass on March 1 as it became increasingly difficult for the town to find an outlet for the recyclables. The station began accepting glass again a few weeks ago but still faces the same challenge.

“The recycling market is so bad right now,” Transfer Station Supervisor Shannon Porter said Thursday.

Porter added that it’s not that the station is looking to make a lot of money on its recyclables. They just need someone to take it.

“I can’t get rid of it if no one wants it,” Porter said.

In 2018, China implemented its National Sword policy, effectively ending the import of waste from other countries, including the United States. The market for recyclables in the U.S. took a hit as the country moved its waste exports to several smaller countries. Before the ban, the U.S. exported most of its waste to China. The impact of the National Sword policy was far reaching here, impacting everything from large recycling and waste disposal companies to small municipal operations, including transfer stations in North Elba and Keene.

The town of Keene recently transitioned away from zero-sort recycling back to self-sort, a change that Keene town Supervisor Joe Pete Wilson Jr. has attributed to the market for recycleables and the increasing cost of sustaining the system, according to the Lake Placid News.

The Lake Clear transfer station accepts glass recycleables.

Right now, Porter said the glass collected at the North Elba transfer station is being stockpiled, or used in small projects.

The stockpiling may not be forever. There is a plan moving forward.

The North Elba Town Council authorized the transfer station to purchase glass recycling equipment earlier this year.

“With COVID, we’re being conscientious about what we’re spending,” Porter said.

Porter said she’s hoping to continue measuring the daily input of glass product for six months to see what equipment the town will need.

“I want to make sure if we do purchase a machine, we don’t go too big or too small,” she said.

The coronavirus pandemic has made that count more difficult. Restaurants and bars are operating at reduced capacity, so it’s unclear if the amount of glass coming in now will be similar next year.

“Next year when this is all over with, hopefully, is my volume going to double in size?” she said.

In the meantime, glass is being accepted at the transfer station. The station is open from 8 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Those who drop off at the transfer station are being asked to rinse their materials, as usual, and wear a face mask.

“We’re trying to run things as normal as we can,” Porter said. “The workers are doing a great job dealing with everything.”

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