By Emily Stifler

Until the mid-1960s, American soda and beer drinkers returned
glass bottles in exchange for a deposit. Coke began
selling “no-deposit” bottles in 1967—bottles not meant to be
returned. Oregon’s 1972 “bottle bill” was the first of its kind,
and required consumers to pay a deposit on cans and bottles,
redeemable upon return. Other forward thinking states soon
followed, essentially paying people to recycle and reducing litter
by more than half.
Today, the Coors factory in Golden, Colorado is the closest facility
to Montana that recycles glass – actually melting it down
and turning it back into glass. Since 2008, Livingston, Montana
has pulverized its old glass for use in trail and road projects.
Until a few years ago, Bozeman did the same, using it for civic
projects and then as a landfill drainage cover. Now in the Gallatin
Valley, residents throw used glass in the trash or pay private
companies to haul it to Livingston.
Seem backward? That’s what a group of concerned Bozemanites
thought, too.
“We were frustrated,” says Michelle Gantt, cofounder
of the Gallatin Zero Waste Coalition (GZWC). The
group came together almost two years ago, in an effort to
create a glass recycling program in Bozeman.
On April 16 this year, GZWC will hold their second annual
glass recycling event. Coinciding with Gallatin Earth
Celebration Clean-up Day, the collection will be in the
Fairgrounds parking lot in Bozeman. GZWC is encouraging
people to start saving glass now for the drop off.
Last year, the group collected 21 tons of glass.
Full Circle Recycling, a private recycling
company based in Four Corners, carted the
glass to Livingston’s pulverizer. Donations
covered the cost of crushing, and
Full Circle didn’t charge for manpower or
equipment use.
Glass is 100 percent recyclable, but it’s
difficult to deal with because it breaks, is
heavy, has little value, and the process is
expensive. While bottle factories can melt
down and truly recycle glass, pulverizers
like Livingston “downcycle” the material,
turning it into aggregate and reusing it.
Montana is still trying to establish recycling
infrastructure, in general. In terms
of glass, the Montana DEQ says the state
doesn’t produce enough consumer glass
to be an effective source for a “full scale”
recycling program. Not having a nearby
bottling plant would then require shipping
glass out of state to be recycled – an
expensive prospect, especially considering
glass’ primary ingredient is silica, one of
the most abundant minerals.
In an effort to reduce all kinds of waste,
the Gallatin Zero Waste Coalition has
expanded beyond glass. At a Gallatin
County Solid Waste Board meeting in
February, the Coalition proposed creating
a “Waste Reduction Task Force.”
GZWC envisions this group would
be made up of citizen experts and solid
waste board members.
Gantt says, “The task force could spend
time researching new waste reduction
efforts, providing education and outreach
and working on other projects that would
be beneficial to the solid waste board and the
community.”

Options for
glass recycling:

Private companies like
Full Circle Recycling, J &
K Recyclers, Triple R Recycling
and Gone Green
offer curbside recycling
services.
As part of a national
program, Target collects
glass with other recyclables,
then transports it
to the closest distribution
center – ours is in Albany,
Oregon.
Form a neighborhood
collection, and then
send a truck once a
month to the Livingston
pulverizing facility.
Gallatin Zero Waste
Coalition’s April 16 Glass
Recycling Collection
at the Fairgrounds. For
more information or to
get in touch with GZWC,
find them on Facebook.
Headwaters Recycling Cooperative
headwatersrecycle.com