Pullman Disposal, which manages our local waste pick-up, recently announced that glass is no longer accepted as part of its single-stream recycling. This is disappointing as a resident, but after poking around a bit, not surprising.
Pullman sells and sends a large amount of sorted recyclable material to China.
China, as part of a new National Sword policy, has implemented stricter control on imports of contaminated scrap and recyclables. When things like paper are contaminated by glass shards, they can't be recycled effectively and recycling is no longer profitable.
This doesn't make it impossible to recycle glass in Pullman, as we can drive it a few miles out of town and dispose of it on its own, but it does add that hurdle of inconvenience.
How does beer consumption fit in?
Beer bottles make up the largest share of glass in our recycling bin every other week. The best way to avoid frequent trips out to the dump is to avoid consuming beer in bottles. And, as this 2008 article "The eco-guide to responsible drinking" attempts to show, it seems reasonable there are more ecological ways to drink beer than from a bottle.
Here's how I'm going to approach sustainable beer in 2018:
- Look for cans over bottles. Aluminum can be recycled more efficiently and cans are lighter to transport.
- Buy beer from local breweries. The shorter the distance the beer travels, the better.
- Use growlers. Kegs are super efficient for distributing beer and can be reused for years. Growlers are filled from kegs and can also be reused for years.
- Homebrew! Brewing new beer is fun and it doesn't have to be distributed in anything.
The approach that covers the best combination of variety and sustainability is probably going to be walking the half mile down to our local brewery to refill my growler, buying aluminum cans of beer from other regional breweries, and spending more time in 2018 making my own beer. 🍻