CREATING RECYCLING INFRASTRUCTURE FOR A CIRCULAR ECONOMY
Developing recycling infrastructure
Windows that are removed from buildings at the time of replacement or demolition can be recycled. But the current lack of infrastructure—as well as a lack of incentive—to get old windows from demolition sites to recycling facilities is limiting glass recycling potential. Attendees of the NGA Glass Conference: Chicago, taking place July 18-20, 2022, at the Renaissance Chicago North Shore hotel, will discuss how to encourage architectural glass recycling.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has indicated it will help create a recycling strategy for the built environment this year, and will be creating “an infrastructure map that looks across the different types of infrastructure required to do this work, including materials recycling facilities, which will help us see spaces that don’t have access,” according to Nena Shaw, acting director, Resource Conservation and Sustainability Division, EPA, during NGA’s Glass and Glazing Advocacy Day.
Following up on the discussion during NGA Glass Conference: Chicago, members will develop a plan to engage the EPA to support the development of architectural glass recycling infrastructure. The challenge is establishing the logistics network to collect architectural glass from demolition sites and deliver it to appropriate recycling facilities.
EPA's Office of Land and Emergency Management (OLEM) is developing and implementing new programs as directed by the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), also referred to as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. One program of interest is the Solid Waste Infrastructure for Recycling (SWIFR) grant program, which will fund improvements to local post-consumer materials management including municipal recycling programs and assist local waste management authorities in making improvements to local waste management systems. Unfortunately, the current program funding may be insufficient for large-scale construction and demolition recycling.
NGA members developed a one-pager handout that outlines the benefits and necessity of recycling architectural glass. As summarized in the on-pager, recycling architectural glass is an important step in advancing energy conservation for two reasons:
- Looking ahead to the year 2050, more than half of the 2050 building stock already exists today. These buildings have less efficient single and double pane windows. Retrofits with high-performance glazing can be a cost-effective means to meeting 2050 energy conservation goals for buildings.
- Higher recycled material content is a key element for future decarbonization efforts for the flat glass manufacturing industry. Recycling glass as cullet saves raw material mining and usage, helps reduce cost and emission burdens, and reduces furnace fuel needed for glass manufacturing.