Glass Recycling in a Midwest City

A bar industry perspective: part 1

Dawn Nelson
3 min readJun 17, 2022


One of the notable aspects of working at a bar is the amount of glass we go through in a single day. Green, brown, red, clear — every kind out there.

So each time I toss a glass bottle into one of the bins at the corner of the bar, I think about how it gets sorted from there. By the end of the night, there is at least 40 pounds of glass to contend with and haul to the bottle room. The beer bottles will get sorted and then returned to the respective distributor. It’s the empty wine and liquor bottles that don’t seem to have a proper home.

A collection of empty bottles and cans before the end of the night. Photo by author.

Supposedly, there are recycling services available for businesses through a municipal program. However, I’m pretty sure the glass at my bar is simply going into the trash at this point, unless someone intervenes.

By someone I mean me.

To complicate things further, my coworker insists that even if it we try to toss it into the recycle stream, it will still end up in the trash and ultimately a landfill. From what I’ve read so far, this does seem to be more of a risk for single stream recycling, which is what we have in this city.


So I call the city recycling center and ask about the glass recycling stream. They reassure me the city has a contract with one of the best glass recycling companies out there, renowned in the field for their stellar performance. Why? In part, because they own their own facilities that process the glass, so they have complete oversight. Ok, cool. As I’m a trusting soul, I leave it at that.

I tell my coworker this and he says, “oh so they just gave you the company line then?”

Ugh. Fine. He’s right, more work is necessary.

Now I am compelled to document the entire glass recycling stream, from the time I toss the glass bottle into the bottle bin, to the time it reaches the city facility and onward to the glass recycling facility. There seem to be a few broken points in the process, so I’ll start close to home: i.e., my bar.

In the meantime, I am reminded of a story a fellow bartender told me once. On the island where she works, recycling is mandatory, and if anything ends up in the trash that…



Dawn Nelson

Artist, writer, strategist ~ writing creative nonfiction, memoir, essay. WIP: 0100 Series & The Sunday Dispatch. Contact: editor (at) dawnnelson (dot) blog