Bottle bill in Indiana: Verallia wants the glass

By Rick Yencer

MUNCIE, INDIANA -  Glass has a storied history in eastern Indiana with small plants in Dunkirk and Winchester to the once giant Ball Brothers operation in Muncie.

And those plants still need an endless supply of cullet - that is broken glass from the last generation of bottles and jars.

Veralli has its North American headquarters in Muncie, and operates a glass plant in Dunkirk, and  has promoted adoption of a bottle bill in Indiana for the past year. More than 200,000 tons of glass, aluminum and plastic containers are thrown away each year worth as much as $60 million in recyclable material.

 Steve Segebarth, vice president of government relations, regulatory affairs and law for Verallia, said a bottle bill like in Iowa or California would requirement little or no government investment. And the refundable deposit like in Iowa would support business and jobs besides a sustainability in the environment. Iowa had a bottle bill since 1979 and recovers 86 percent of glass and alumnium amounting to $30 million in commodities.

 And the glass industry needs to recover more containers as the price rises on cullet from Canada and other countries. 

 Segebarth spoke Saturday at the Living Lightly Fair at Minnestrista Cultural Center. A handful of people heard how the survey says most support a bottle bill and recycling programs.

 The Hoosier Poll conducted by Ball State University Bowen Center last year found 87 percent of those surveyed said more effective recycling programs was very or somewhat important. And 73 percent supported deposit and redemption programs. There also was wide support for recycling programs that would keep glass, aluminum and plastic out of the landfill.

State Rep. Bill Davis, R-Portland, chairman of the House Public Policy Committee, has been a supporter of the glass industry and was a limestone producer for local plants.

But he said there was still opposition to a bottle deposit bill from consumers, and he was unsure that was he way to recapture cullet for the industry.

David said the Legislature had studied the issue and he awaited a committee report on how recovery of glass and other recyclable material could be encouraged by lawmakers.

In recent years, state government froze recycling funds to local communities and programs, and just recently released that money landfills pay in tipping fees.

Segebarth said the Dunkirk operation would buy much more Indiana cullet if available and the plant now has a processing facility for that material. 

Last year, Dunkirk bought 58 percent of raw material like limestone, soda ash and sand besides about 42 percent cullet. Only about 15 percent of that recycled glass came from the state with other Midwest states contributing the rest.

Verallia has some voluntary programs now like in Broad Ripple where a collection program from bars and restaurants generates 5.6 tons a month or 67 tons.That is enough glass to operate Dunkirk's plant for about 97 minutes.

 Segebarth said the company was open to any process or discussion to improve recycling and recover more glass besides plastic and aluminum.

The glass container manufacturing industry is $5.5 billion investment with 48 plants in 22 states. Those 102 furnaces produce more than 34 billion containers, and bottles  each year.