Passing on our glass

Glass was one of the first materials many of us remember separating for recycling – whether through the return systems (milk bottles, soft drinks) or in crates for recycling as kerbside collection came into practice. With the way we recycle continuing to change, the City of Ballarat is leading the way in glass recycling with its Pass on Glass initiative.

A pile of glass bottles and jars

Since September 2019, the City of Ballarat has called on residents to stop adding glass to their yellow-lidded recycling bins and to instead take their glass to one of eight Pass on Glass drop-off sites around Ballarat.

The City of Ballarat is looking at how a circular economy, which focuses on reducing waste and keeping products and materials in use, could keep the glass in the local region.

Major changes to the recyclable market over the past three years have had an enormous impact but have also created an opportunity for utilising products, like glass, in a much more local context.

Mayor and Sustainability Portfolio Councillor Ben Taylor says it’s important these markets are developed in conjunction with local companies through trials as well as research and development projects.

"To achieve better management of our resources we need to look at different ways of keeping glass circling around the economy."

– Mayor Cr Ben Taylor

The collected glass is now taken to two local recycling facilities in Ballarat – Vic Waste Solutions, a materials recovery facility which diverts recyclable materials from landfill and provides solutions for waste streams, and Kevin Clark Pty Ltd, which collects, sorts, sells, diverts and transports recyclable materials.

Half of the glass product goes to Vic Waste Solutions, which is using state-of-the-art machinery to crush the glass back to its original form and is using the product in research and development opportunities with local businesses, including Smith & Wil Asphalting.

Vic Waste Solutions Director Jon Kennedy praised the Ballarat community for taking up the challenge of keeping recycled glass clean.

“The quality of the glass has been really good, there hasn’t been any contamination. It’s been nicely cleaned,” Jon says.

More than 650 tonnes of glass bottles and jars have been collected and this number continues to grow.

Residents are removing all lids and, where possible, removing the label from the bottle or jar as well.

Sustainability Portfolio Councillor Grant Tillett says there has been a fantastic response from the community.

“This has been a superb effort by the community to embrace a system that, while not as convenient as being at your front door, allows us the opportunity to develop our own product and work with local companies to identify local uses for the product,” he says.

"We are really grateful to the community for taking part in a service that delivers such a clean product. The cleaner the products we collect, the less contaminants in them, the more opportunities that are opened up to us."

– Cr Grant Tillett

Smith & Wil Asphalting Manager Michael Quirk says recycling provides flow-on benefits to local businesses and the entire community.

“If we’re able to take that glass and produce an asphalt that our team can actually lay on City of Ballarat projects, we’re closing that whole circuit of that glass recycling coming from the City of Ballarat.”

Kevin Clark Pty Ltd is separating recycled glass into colours which are recycled into a high-end use, such as producing more bottles and jars.

Broken glass is processed into a final crushed product, with crushed glass samples sent to local businesses to consider for future use.

The crushed glass

“Pass on Glass is a fantastic initiative,” Councillor Tillett says.

“For us to have such a great program here, creating local job opportunities and a local responsibility for dealing with our own waste, we are showing that we can lead the way in recycling.”