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Crushing Bottles Cuts Costs, Saves Space, Helps Environment

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NATIONAL REPORT—Any hotel property that has a restaurant or bar has to deal with bottle disposal. No matter where they are on the property—behind the bar or in the dumpster—bottles take up space. It costs money in labor to move them from one location to another and to have them hauled away.

Glass bottles do not generate much cash as recyclables—about $4 to $6 per ton—so most often they end up in landfills. Yes, there are places where bottles are sorted for recycling or returned for deposit refunds, but sometimes it costs more than a nickel to get a nickel back. With all of the hassle involved with glass containers, why not just crush them?

There are many benefits to bottle crushing. According to Rick Barkan, president of Northfield, Ill.-based Bottle Disintegration Systems (BDS), bottle waste volume can be reduced by 85 percent.

“The bigger the bottle, the greater the space savings,” say Barkan, whose company sells two different sizes of the Bottle Disintegrator.

More than six times more glass can fit in one container when it is crushed into sand and tiny pieces, which are called cullet. With less glass volume to deal with, fewer dumpsters are needed. That frees up space and results in fewer pickups, which cuts costs. Sometimes a property can get buy with not only fewer dumpsters but also smaller ones. Additional savings come from less need for plastic liners or containers in areas where bottles are used or served.

Tim Johnson, a waste management expert and president of Midas Management Consulting LLC, Madison, Wisc., says health care costs can even be reduced because the opportunities for cuts and scrapes are reduced.

When crushers such as BDS’ Bottle Disintegrator are used behind a bar, fewer trips are needed to the dumpster. Barkan says one of his clients was able to get by with one less person because of the efficiencies added by a crusher.

Ideally, Barkan says, glass bottles should be segregated by color and recycled, but there are times when it is just not practical.

“In a perfect world, bottles would not go to landfills,” he says. “If you have to send bottles to landfills, let it be in little pieces.”

Machines Match Volume

In addition to BDS, whose Bottle Disintegrators fit the needs of most food and beverage operations, there are also bottle crushers available for larger convention type hotels. These types of crushers are applicable only for back-of-the-house locations close to a dumpster. Compactors Inc., Hilton Head Island, S.C., manufactures several of these types of bottle crushers. Their Model 150 will crunch two to three tons of glass an hour. Large containers full of bottles can be emptied into it. Compactors Inc. also produces a smaller model that will take up to one gallon of bottles each time.

The cost of crushers varies. Barkan says his machines run in the $4,000 range but most dealers sell them for 25 percent to 35 percent less. Mike Pierson, president of Compactors Inc., says his Model 150 sells for just under $4,000 but the smaller 95-2 Model, which will fit on top of a barrel, runs for $1,240.

Return on investment varies depending on the location because of the differences in hauling fees. The size of a hotel and the amount of bottle waste generated also impact ROI. Barkan says ROI on his company’s machines can be as short as just a few months or up to 12 to 18 months.

“One customer told me he is saving $30,000 a year thanks to reduced hauling and labor costs,” Barkan says.

Creative Uses for Crushed Glass

Crushed glass does not have to end up in a landfill. In Minnesota, for example, brown, green and clear glass is recycled into new containers. More than 15 Minnesota counties have used reclaimed glass as aggregate for road base. One company, EnviroGLAS Products Inc., Plano, Texas, uses recycled glass in floor tiles and countertops.

Glenn Hasek can be reached at greenlodgingnews@aol.com.

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