ALPENA - The Alpena Resource Recovery Program and Goodrich Paving completed a test project last week that could open doors to a new mode of glass recycling across the state.
On Nov. 21, Goodrich Paving used about 4,000 pounds of crushed glass in an asphalt mixture, dubbed "glassphalt," to pave the loading area behind the ARRP facility in Michigan's first such paving project since the early 1990s. The Alpena recycling board gave the project a green light in April, and ARRP collected glass from county residents to be ground into aggregate by Goodrich Paving. ARRP Director Tom Pelkey said many states have been using glassphalt for decades, but the idea has never caught on in Michigan.
"We knew that Goodrich had a plant to process it, and we felt that they probably had the resources to be able to do the project," he said. "We needed to ... get that project out there so that people could see that it can be done, and then hopefully it can be also seen as a good business opportunity for a private company."
By substituting a percentage of traditional stone and sand content with crushed glass, he said, glassphalt can repurpose many tons of materials that are otherwise difficult to reuse. Pelkey was hopeful that ARRP's project with Goodrich Paving would clear the way for other recycling companies across the state to recycle glass without the usual pitfalls of working with glass, including being dangerous to handle, difficult to resell, and expensive to transport.
"You can't get enough glass on a truck to pay for the cost of the freight, and what this does is provides a local market to make it sustainable. Your transportation costs are way down, you have a material that's available for local businesses to use at a fairly low cost, you can use almost any kind of glass," he said. "The only thing anybody can sell right now on the market is clear glass. This gives you a market for colored glass, broken dishes, pyrex."
A Midland-based asphalt company tried to get a glassphalt program off the ground in the early 1990s, but Pelkey said politics and industry pressure quenched the program prematurely.
"(The company was) forced to drop it, but it wasn't because it was a bad product," he said. "In this day and age, we're into the 21st century and everybody is thinking green and wants to do green things, and so it's a whole different mindset than we had back then."
Pelkey said demand needs to be there for companies to make the necessary investments, and most of Michigan's glass markets are downstate, but that could change if paving companies across the state explore the possibility of using glassphalt.
"There's only so much we can do from the public sector. We got somebody to do the test project and showed that it can be done. If Goodrich, for instance, wants to pursue this, then we'll work with them to figure out a collection system and volume," he said. "There are other recycling programs, too, that they would be able to get glass from, and that's the nice thing. Nobody in this region is taking glass, because they don't have anywhere to send it. If someone with a plant decides they want to pursue this product, there are a lot of places that would like to collect glass besides us."
Andrew Westrope can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5693.