Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Onondaga County Residents Have New Way To Ensure A Better Future For Glass Bottles

These types of glass bottles can now be taken to any of 10 redemption centers to ensure they're actually recycled.
These types of glass bottles can now be taken to any of 10 redemption centers to ensure they're actually recycled.

For years, Onondaga County residents have faithfully been putting their glass wine and liquor bottles in their recycling bins thinking they ultimately return to a new life as more bottles. But that’s not the case. However, there’s now a better way to make sure those non-redeemable bottles have a more useful future.

So you’ve polished off that bottle of wine and you put it out for recycling. But what really happens to it?

"When it goes into the blue bin, it gets broken, it's dirty, and it's used as engineering aggregate and landfills for daily cover, building roads."

Wait, what? Landfill cover? That’s certainly an ironic fate. Executive Director of the Onondaga County Resource recovery agency Dereth Glance realized there had to be a better way to reclaim that glass. So, OCRRA has partnered with ten redemption centers where residents can take their bottles.

"We wanted to work with the local redemption facilities because the state has yet to expand the bottle bill to include wine and liquor bottles. We know that's about 50 percent of the glass in blue bins. There's a supply chain hungry for clean glass."

In addition to wine and liquor bottles, non-deposit iced tea and juice containers are also accepted. Glance says they’re working with a company called Tomra, which makes those bottle and can redemption machines.

"They come with their truck, pick up the glass, and take it back to their glass processing plants. It'll automatically sort by color, it's clean enough, it turns into what's called glass cullet, and they're able to re-form that into a new fresh glass bottle."

Glance mentioned the state’s bottle bill. It’s approaching its 40th anniversary, and she calls it one of the most effective materials management policies.

"We know that those all get recycled. It's clean, it's sort of your first extended producer responsibility, and it's very effective. There's huge opportunities with wine and liquor bottles."

Because adding that nickel deposit would be a financial incentive to return it, just like it is for soda and beer cans and plastic beverage bottles. Glance hopes this one-of-a-kind pilot project demonstrates to the state that people are interested and willing to return all glass bottles.

"We wanted to launch this as a proof of concept, hopefully inspire other communities, and inspire the state to modernize and expand the deposit law so it just becomes second nature."

But will it really? Glance says they conducted a soft launch around memorial day, and redemption centers were receiving cases of material. Remember, though…this is just for wine, liquor, and non-alcoholic glass containers only. Glance says still put those glass pickle, jelly, and other food jars in the blue bin. Redemption sites and more information can be found here.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at