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Glass Recycling Program Results in Insulation Donations to Habitat for Humanity

Recyclers may not know their glass will be transformed into fiber glass keeping the homes of low-income families insulated.
Mixed Glasses for Recycling
Mixed Glasses for Recycling/ Photo Vredit: Shannon Bowers

Why is recycling glass in Springfield the first step to keeping needy families cool this summer? KSMU’s Shannon Bowers explains how the city’s glass recycling program has resulted in insulation donations to Habitat for Humanity.

Depositing mixtures of bottles, broken cups and plates into the large blue bin at the Franklin Recycling Center is just a weekly habit for a lot of residents. What these recyclers may not know is that the glass will be transformed into fiber glass keeping the homes of low-income families insulated.

To thank residents for recycling their mixed glass, a processing plant, Ripple Glass has donated enough insulation to keep eight Habitat for Humanity homes cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

Barbra Lucks, Springfield’s sustainability officer, thinks that this is a wonderful closed-loop program.

“Ripple comes and gets the glass. They handle the transportation and the processing with no charge to the city. And that’s a very significant savings,” Lucks said.

After that, it is sold to Owens Cornering, who manufactures the PINK fiberglass insulation using 75 percent recycled glass. During 2012, the City of Springfield collected over 1,100 tons of glass.

“1,100 tons of glass would look like 44 tractor trailer loads, end to end. So it's a lot of glass,” said Lucks

I went to the Habitat for Humanity Re-store and asked Larry Peterson, the executive director of the organization, to show me what fiber glass for eight homes really looks like. 

“Well you’re looking at nine giant, what looks like nine giant pillows, of insulation but there is actually, behind those, I think it goes three deep… It’s  just up there and you can see it is not for sale because all of this stuff will be used by our construction crews to help keep our homes energy efficient,” said Peterson. 

Even though Springfield has only been affiliated with Ripple Glass for two years, the city was the second largest out of the ten cities that are in the program, according to the Ripple’s Michelle Goth.

“Every year we decide how much insulation we can donate as a whole so it is usually a set dollar amount, and so Springfield received kind of a proportionate amount. We would compare them to a Kansas City or an Omaha. They receive a piece of the pie. So, the more glass that Springfield recycles with us, the more insulation they can receive in the future,” said Goth.   

The City of Springfield hopes to continue this partnership with Ripple glass and Habitat for Humanity for years to come.

According to the company, the average city uses 6,000 tons of glass in a year. Using the recycled glass to make new insulation saves millions of bottles from the landfill, reduces energy and water use, and dramatically lowers negative air emissions.

For KSMU News I’m Shannon Bowers.