Omaha Recycling plant shatters Sioux City's glass recycling plan - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Omaha Recycling plant shatters Sioux City's glass recycling plans

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  • Omaha Recycling plant shatters Sioux City's glass recycling plansMore>>

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    "When they see a syringe on the line, they have to shut the line down, we have to bring in a supervisor with proper gloves, and it costs us money to dispose of it properly,” explained Dale Gubbels, Firstar Fiber, Inc. CEO.More >>
    "When they see a syringe on the line, they have to shut the line down, we have to bring in a supervisor with proper gloves, and it costs us money to dispose of it properly,” explained Dale Gubbels, Firstar Fiber, Inc. CEO.More >>

SIOUX CITY & OMAHA, Neb. (KTIV) The on-the-curb off-the-curb debate over recycling glass reached a fever pitch at City Hall last fall, with passionate recyclers pleading to the city to keep it curbside.

Sioux City leaders agreed, after being told that the recycling plant in Omaha, has found a way to recycle our glass.

However, they didn't hear the whole story.  Some of our recycled glass, is still ending up in the landfill.

In 2010, we showed you what happens to your paper and plastics after they leave your curb.

We're back in Omaha, and this time we're tracking your glass.

Workers snag the glass as it rolls by on the conveyor belt, and send it down the shoot.

However, even this recycling plant's CEO admits...

“We're just not set up to handle glass,” said Firstar Fiber Inc. CEO, Dale Gubbels.

Gubbels said glass is a burden on his business and his employees. It breaks and mixes in with more valuable commodities, like aluminum.

"If we have too much glass in our aluminum, they'll reject an entire load,” he explained.

Meanwhile, 80-90% of Firstar's profit is wrapped up paper.

"Paper mills hate glass, quite honestly,” Gubbels pointed out.

So, taking Sioux City's glass means taking on a big financial risk.

When asked if Firstar Fiber wants to take Sioux City’s glass, Gubbels responded, “No. No, we don't."

Recycling glass is also dangerous for the workers on the line. Some have even been cut while trying to pull out those broken pieces.

"Once glass breaks, it becomes a major safety issue,” he pointed out.

While workers try to catch as much glass as they can, they can't get it all.

When that happens Gubbels said, "it is going to end up in our trash."

Not the place Sioux City council members thought it was going, when they voted to keep glass in the recycle bins.

"It's a little disappointing,” said Mayor Bob Scott, when we approached him about the glass recycling problem.

He also said he was shocked.

"We do want to recycle glass, and the last thing we want to do is ramp up and find out that the person who takes it won't want it,” said Scott.

Sioux City was hoping to ramp up its recycling effort this spring, that includes encouraging more people to recycle glass. However, those efforts could actually cost the city money.

"We can't shoulder all of these risks,” said Guebbels.

Gubbels said, the more glass the city recycles, the more it costs Firstar Fiber in labor and gas to get the glass to its next destination. Eventually, that cost will be passed onto the city.

“We need to figure out something different before that happens,” added Scott.

"My hope is that when they encourage people to recycle, they will encourage people to recycle glass in the most beneficial way, which is to take it back to your deposit centers,” suggested Gubbels.

Sioux City leaders are now left searching for a solution that won't break the bank.

While glass tends to trickle in from the Omaha area, Firstar Fiber is only contractually obligated to accept glass from Sioux City.

Gubbels says there's a Minnesota company that would pay to take Sioux City's glass, but it would have to be separated.

Scott said he planned to call a meeting with garbage collector Gill Hauling, to begin coming up with a solution before spring.

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