GwMA Officials Receive Gwinnett Clean & Beautiful Briefing

February 12, 2015
Connie Wiggins, Executive Director for Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful, spoke to those attending the February meeting of the Gwinnett Municipal Association in Sugar Hill. She noted that vibrant communities are commercially and economically sound, socially connected, and environmentally responsible. This requires that we recognize that we are caretakers who preserve the environment for future generations; as individuals we take on this responsibility rather than waiting for “somebody else.”
How our communities look impacts Gwinnett’s economic strength. Community appearance is important: people form an impression of a community in about five seconds . We should be vigilant about how our communities look and what they say about us. Litter impacts our community appearance. It not only creates a bad first impression, but it is also harmful to water quality as it makes its way to our streams.  One way to reduce litter is through recycling.


Glass and plastic bottles can be found littering our roadsides and end up in our streams. Since 2005, Gwinnett has single-stream curbside pick-up for recyclables, meaning that residents do not have separate bins for glass bottles and jars, paper, aluminum cans, and plastic bottles. As a result of this single-bin recycling, and the processes of pick-up and processing at recycling centers in Metro Atlanta, glass arrives broken and contaminates the recycling stream – especially the paper stream. The impact of a one-bin collection system means that most glass bottles break and can no longer be delivered whole to an end-user manufacturer; broken glass becomes garbage rather than being recovered for use as a raw material to make new products. According to Wiggins, contaminants account for  an average of around 30% of what goes into the recycling bin; without glass, those contaminants drop to around 5-7%. 

What are our options?

The key to recycling glass bottles successfully is to prevent them from breaking during the collection and processing processes.  Currently you can still place your glass bottles and jars in your  curbside recycling bin. If you want to ensure they are recycled as used as a resource not as waste,  we encourage you to consider some other options. If we want to be better environmental stewards today, as individuals, we can separate out our glass bottles and personally deliver them to the Recycling Bank on Satellite Boulevard, or the Snellville Recycling Center. Individuals can also find ways to reuse or repurpose the bottles.
Our goal for is for each of us to be better environmental stewards and use our resources wisely. Without other collection options for glass bottles and jars, the cost of curbside recycling will go up, and broken glass bottles will end up as garbage headed to landfills for disposal. “We need to be mindful of how to proceed  with glass recycling to ensure that glass bottles are being recycled and returned to manufacturers to make new products,” said Wiggins when addressing Gwinnett’s leaders. “It bothers me that we as city and county leaders are perpetuating a myth about curbside glass recycling.” Glass bottles can be recycled. Single stream curbside collection for glass bottles and jars may not be the best option. Municipal leaders were asked to share their thoughts about glass collection options with Gwinnett Clean & Beautiful. By working together  with city and county leaders, as well as other stakeholders, we will find a better solution for glass bottle recycling.

Looking Ahead to the Future

Wiggins said, “As we look to the future and our mutual goal to be better environmental stewards, our biggest problem is apathy. Don’t be expecting someone else to take care of environmental problems, like littering, stream pollution, and recycling.  Somebody can solve these problems and that somebody may be each of us.”

A Few Notes on Recycling and Gwinnett Clean & Beautiful Programs

  • Almost all of the materials collected in Gwinnett are used by manufacturers in Georgia.
  • In today’s recycling markets, aluminum is worth $1600 pe rton; recycled glass is worth $15 per ton
  • Recycling is still beneficial and important
  • Lawrenceville has already been working with haulers to remove glass from curbside pickup. Those municipalities looking to do the same are encouraged to speak to Lawrenceville’s administration.
  • Cities were invited to partner with Gwinnet Clean & Beautiful through a variety of programs and to participate in the Great American Clean-up on March1-May31st