The Pennsylvania Recycling Markets Center Inc. (RMC), Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, has honored the Northern Lancaster County Authority (NLCA) with the 2016 William M. Heenan Jr. Recycling Markets Development Award for its commitment to creation of new markets for recycled mixed colored glass.
RMC recognized NLCA, based in Denver, Pennsylvania, for its use of recycled glass as a growing medium for the reed bed filtration system at the authority’s Beam Road Wastewater Treatment Plant. To RMC’s knowledge, the plant is the first location in the United States to use sharp-free, manufactured recycled glass aggregate for this purpose.
A reed bed or constructed wetland is essentially a type of water filtration system that mirrors the way natural wetlands break down waste in water and filter out impurities. Wetland reeds are cultivated in a recycled glass aggregate filter bed where the plant roots and natural microbial processes turn wastewater solids into treated water and benign solids. Free of chemicals and odors, these beds have been proven to be both cost-effective and energy-efficient and to significantly reduce or even eliminate the need for disposal of the solids, reducing the volume of solids by as much as 90 percent. NLCA says its was the first reed bed biosolids treatment system in Pennsylvania.
Typically, the growing media for reed bed wastewater filtration is a very porous, fine aggregate, such as sand, but recycled glass aggregate manufactured to a uniform, sharp-free specification, has been demonstrated in other countries. NLCA is currently using 800 tons of processed, crushed, size-graded and color-mixed container glass – an amount roughly equivalent to what a rural Pennsylvania county may collect in 2.5 years.
Phragmites austalis, common reed plants, are cultivated in a recycled glass aggregate filter bed where the plant roots and natural microbial processes turn wastewater solids into treated water and benign solids.
“Our sand was 20 years old and had broken down over time,” says Jason Coyle, plant superintendent for NLCA. “With technical input from the RMC, we were interested in bringing [recycled glass] to Pennsylvania.”
Originally developed by the Max Planck Institute of Germany and the Netherlands approximately 30 years ago, the recycled glass process has been approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and has been used in sand mound septic systems for about a decade. NLCA is currently using processed, crushed, size-graded and color-mixed container glass obtained from Cougle’s Recycling Inc. of Hamburg, Pennsylvania. “No one has put this into an application of this size,” says Coyle.
The 2016 Reed Bed Upgrade was a win-win for all parties involved, says the RMC. Using Cougle’s Recycling Inc.’s manufactured recycled glass aggregate saved thousands of dollars of freight expense compared to hauling the nearest available sand from Delaware or Maryland. Donald Kellenberger, of Kellenberger Excavating in Spring Township, Pennsylvania, says final grading of the recycled glass aggregate was easier than sand. He says the manufactured recycled glass aggregate held its shape and position better than the sand and this ease of installation resulted in significantly less time to complete the installation.
“Proper processing of solids is a major issue faced by wastewater treatment plants such as NLCA’s plant,” says Robert Bylone, RMC’s president and executive director. “What they’ve been able to do is take an existing treatment method and build on its sustainability by using a recycled-content product. For these reasons, and for the courage of the NLCA to pioneer recycled glass aggregate for this use, we are proud to recognize them with the William M. Heenan, Jr. Recycling Markets Development Award.” Bylone continues, “The RMC will continue to expand this use across Pennsylvania and potentially the nation.”
“A win for the environment, while simultaneously reducing construction costs for the residents of Brecknock Township and excelling treatment output, made receiving the 2016 Heenan Award very rewarding,” says Jason Coyle.
The William M. Heenan, Jr. Recycling Markets Development Award is named in memory of William M. Heenan Jr., a lifelong international ambassador of the recycling industry who was instrumental in supporting the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to initially vision and fund inception of the RMC.
The RMC is organized as a non-profit corporation and works to develop and expand the use of recycled materials and recycled content product markets in Pennsylvania.