“Recycling” Glass Back to Sand … For Beaches?

Gary Griggs | 26 March 2023

CoastalCare.org has been a leader in reporting on the global impacts of beach sand mining and its negative impact on shorelines. The Santa Aquila Foundation was an important supporter of the awarding-winning film Sand Wars, which was an engaging and behind-the-scenes investigation of this global issue. Vanishing Sands written by Orrin Pilkey, Norma Longo, William Neal, Nelson Rangel-Buitrago, Keith Pilkey, and Hannah Hayes was just published and is as comprehensive a look at beach and river sand mining around the planet.

There have been several recent proposals and some projects actually underway to grind up glass bottles and use this ground glass to replenish beaches. Along most shorelines, other than in tropical environments, the dominant mineral making up the beach sand is quartz, which is silicon dioxide (SiO2), the same elemental composition as glass. While this may initially seem like a good solution for replenishing or nourishing disappearing or narrow beaches, this concept is not a sustainable or effective approach.

Initially derived from silica sand glass is a valuable resource that is already in a pure form that can most effectively be recycled or melted down to make more glass, rather than being put on the beach where it will be lost to the ocean over time as it is carried offshore or alongshore.

The posts highlighted below describe the development of Glass Half Full, a small glass crushing/grinding facility in Louisiana that was conceived of as a way to replenish a retreating shoreline. One catalyst for this effort was the lack of glass bottle recycling facilities in this part of Louisiana. The article states that the college students who initially created this facility have now expanded their efforts to grind up 150,000 pounds of glass each month, which amounts to 75 tons. A cubic yard of sand (or glass) weighs about 1.35 tons, so this 75 tons/month is equal to 55.5 cubic yards, about 5 dump truck loads. With beach nourishment projects typically involving tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of sand, this very modest amount of glass sand is simply not significant.

Glass Half Full is a creative and innovative company that deserves to be celebrated. All things considered, however, in the big big picture, this same glass could be more effectively recycled and reused as glass products, thereby negating the need to mine even more sand to create new glass products.

Restoring Louisiana’s Shoreline, One Glass Bottle at a Time – GIZMODO

Recycling (by RubyT via CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Flickr).

Glass Half Full is redirecting glass from landfills and turning it into much-needed sand.

Louisiana’s shoreline is rapidly eroding due to sea level rise and extreme weather fueled by climate change. But a scrappy New Orleans glass recycling initiative, Glass Half Full, is rounding up as many of the city’s glass bottles as possible to create sand for coastal restoration.

The team, a winner of the 2023 Gizmodo Science Fair, got started in 2020, right before covid-19 disrupted life across the globe. Their goal was to make use of Louisiana’s discarded glass, which is largely not recycled. At first, cofounders Franziska Trautmann and Max Steitz could only pulverize one glass bottle at a time from their backyard operation. After a successful GoFundMe campaign raised about $150,000, Glass Half Full was able to invest in larger machinery and a proper facility, and they now turn over 150,000 pounds of glass into sand per month.

According to Trautmann, using recycled glass for shoreline restoration was an early goal. But they needed help, so in 2021 they reached out to their former professors at Tulane University. Glass Half Full, Tulane University professors and students, and researchers from other universities formed ReCoast to work together on testing if recycled glass could eventually be placed onto the coast for shoreline restoration…


Related Stories and Video Clips . . .

Insider Business Video:
Two college students founded one of Louisiana’s only glass recycling companies. They’re turning glass into sand and using it for coastal restoration.

National Science Foundation Video:
ReCoast’s vision is to create coastal community recycling programs to keep glass out of landfills and instead use it for glass sand products that support coastal restoration and preservation.

PBS Newshour:
A Brief But Spectacular take on ‘glassroots’ recycling

Guardian News:
Known as ‘that sand girl’ on TikTok, 24-year-old Franziska Trautmann is trying to help restore Louisiana’s eroding coastline … with glass sand. 

How A Used Bottle Becomes A New Bottle - NPR Planet Money

Care for a drink? (by Vincent VR CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 via Flickr).

The rise of curbside recycling programs over the past few decades has meant more glass recycling. But for a long time, many recycling centers didn’t have the technology to turn recycled glass into the raw material for new bottles. Instead, recycled glass often wound up being used as a cheap construction material, or even to cover landfills.

Now, with new technology that can better sort glass collected in curbside recycling, more used glass bottles can be turned back into new glass bottles. To see how this works, we went to a glass recycling facility and a bottle factory…

Outside a recycling plant in Jersey City, N.J., there are piles and piles of what looks like garbage.

But it’s actually broken glass…

Read More »

Additional Related Stories . . .

Glass Powder (by Hideya Hamano CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 via Flickr).

Use of Pulverized Recycled Glass for Beach Nourishment: A Review – Georgia Coastal Research Council (GCRC)

This paper reviews geotechnical, biological, and abiotic analyses conducted on the experimental placement of recycled glass on beaches in Florida. It will also describe the experiences local governments have had when considering the use of recycled glass as an alternative material for beach nourishment.

Coastal erosion caused by increased extreme weather events and sea level rise is escalating the rate and extent to which beaches are washing away. Traditionally, inland and offshore sand and dredged material from rivers, canals, and the ocean have been used to nourish beaches, but these resources are becoming increasingly expensive and difficult to obtain…

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Glass trash at the local recycle (by Chuckcars CC BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr).

Can recycled glass help restore Louisiana’s eroding coastline? – the Guardian

Dave Clements, owner of Snake and Jake’s Christmas Club Lounge, a beloved dive bar in New Orleans, has watched Louisiana’s coast shrink year after year.

“I used to go fishing quite a bit down in Delacroix area. Me and my buddy would go out in a flat boat,” he says. Clements remembers finding “a little spot, a little island” where he and his friend would take breaks while fishing for redfish, sheepshead, speckled trout and flounder. When they went back to the same spot a month later, the patch of land was gone. “I actually stopped fishing because it was so depressing..”

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