Glass container image courtesy of Pittsburgh Dept. of Environmental Services.

Construction Junction has long been a gold mine for quirky reclaimed furniture and architectural treasures. Now, it’s also a place to easily recycle glass.

A massive bright green recycling bin specifically for glass has been added to the Construction Junction parking lot. Another has been placed in the Strip District (under the 31st Street Bridge outside the city’s Bureau of Environmental Services at 3001 Railroad St.) and a third is located in Beltzhoover in McKinley Park’s public parking lot on Bausman St.

The plan is to keep all three collection receptacles — funded not by taxpayers, but by a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection — in place through Nov. 28, and possibly longer if this recycling program is successful.

What does success look like?

Teresa Bradley, recycling supervisor for the city’s Bureau of Environmental Services, tells us that the key is avoiding cross-contamination by respecting the signage that explains what belongs in these bins. Only put in food-grade glass — things like wine and alcohol bottles, non-alcoholic glass drink bottles and glass jars that held food products.

So, old peanut butter jars? Yes, but clean them first. Broken mirror from your bedroom? Definitely no.

Here’s why: Things like mirrors, automotive glass, old windows and other kinds of glass may include lead or other materials. A recycling bin filled with glass that includes those contaminants will be rejected by the companies (and countries like China) that buy recyclables. Most recently China has required that bales of recyclables have only 0.5% cross-contamination (meaning bits of glass in with paper or other items in with glass).

When people ignore signage and dump in non-recyclable glass or other things like plaster and wood, Bradley says, time and money are wasted: Her department has to send someone to clean out the bin to remove the contaminants. And items in that contaminated bin may be rendered non-recyclable.

“Fortunately, the majority of people are following our new signage, Bradley says.

That 0.5% bar is challenging to meet, but Bradley says it’s possible with effort.

“It’s exciting,” Bradley notes, “because the program is showing Pittsburgh residents that not only can this be done, but that we can continue recycling responsibly even as the rules of recycling have changed in the past year.”

Along with offering these new large, clearly labeled containers, Bradley says the program has another benefit: It focuses on limiting greenhouse gas emissions by keeping everything local: Rather than transporting things over long distances by truck, Environmental Services collects glass at these locations and brings it to Superior Mulch in McKees Rocks, then Superior’s sister company CAP Glass takes  it to their processing plant in Mount Pleasant.

As this program continues, Bradley hopes that Pittsburghers will consider not just recycling more glass but also consuming less plastic, especially the brittle, non-recyclable kind.

It’s up to us, she says, to clean up our recycling stream and to rethink our consumption.

Read our recent story on the need to clean up trash in Pittsburgh.

Melissa Rayworth

Kidsburgh Editor Melissa Rayworth specializes in stories about culture, gender, design and parenting. She has written for a variety of outlets in the U.S. and Asia, and is a frequent contributor to The Associated Press. Find a selection of her work at