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USCAR Sponsors Project to Tackle Windshield Recycling Issues

18 August 1998

USCAR Sponsors Project to Tackle Windshield Recycling Issues The recycling of automotive windshields could reduce the amount of automotive "fluff" that goes to landfills by about three percent, according to USCAR's recycling partnership. However, because of the difficulty in recycling windshields' plastic laminates, windshields are among the most challenging auto parts to recycle, along with the plastics and rubbers. 

To tackle the issues of windshield recycling, USCAR is sponsoring a windshield collection pilot project to evaluate technical and economic issues associated with windshield recycling. 

The Recycling Materials Center, a program of the Center for Environmental Policy, Economics and Science (CEPES) in Ann Arbor, Mich., successfully completed negotiations in July with Henderson Glass of Bloomfield Hills, Mich.; Waste Management of Michigan, Inc. of Livonia, Mich.; and Strategic Materials of Houston to set up the pilot project. 

According to J.D. Snyder, CEPES's director of the Recycling Materials Center, over 70 tons of windshield material per month is currently landfilled by Henderson Glass, a Michigan chain of 33 glass replacement stores. This pilot project will demonstrate the volume of windshields that can be diverted from landfills, potential cost savings from avoided costs of disposal, costs of collection and processing operations, and marketed material prices.  

"This study of windshield recycling is an important initiative," said John Caron, the champion of the project on USCAR's Vehicle Recycling Partnership. "If we can find a cheaper and quicker way to recycle windshields through this study, dismantlers and glass repair shops would have motivation to recycle them rather than send them to landfills." 

For 90 days, five metropolitan Detroit Henderson Glass stores will collect damaged windshields in special dumpsters dedicated to windshield recycling. Waste Management is responsible for collecting these windshields once per week from Henderson and transporting them to Strategic Materials' Detroit facility to study glass processing and recycling. Some windshield glass is already recycled, but the plastic laminates are not recovered. However, USCAR's recycling team is currently sponsoring a separate project to tackle the issues of separating and recycling the plastics and glass in a windshield. 

Since CEPES has extended knowledge of creating recycling infrastructures, this organization is managing the project. CEPES designed the pilot program, and identified the other companies involved. USCAR's recycling partnership is funding the management of the project, and the other companies involved are participating at their own expense. 

"It has been a challenging but productive process to bring these companies together so we can evaluate the economic and technical feasibility of windshield recycling," said Snyder. "At the conclusion of this pilot project, we will have important cost and performance data and information to evaluate the viability of windshield recycling. And the results of this project could have implications for other post consumer material recycling opportunities as well."