As Montanans, we’re fortunate to live in a state where wilderness is only minutes away, no matter where you are. From snowcapped mountains and lush forests to big skies and crystal clear lakes, Montana is filled with natural wonders. Unfortunately, it’s also filled with something else: trash.

Montanans generate an average of 8.8 pounds of trash per day — almost twice the national average — and recycle only 17.1% of it, which is less than half of the nationwide recycling rate. Recycling saves energy, conserves natural resources, reduces carbon emissions, and creates economic opportunity, but so far our home state hasn’t taken full advantage of these benefits.

One area of potential growth is glass recycling. Glass can be recycled over and over without any loss in quality, and Americans only recycle 27% of their glass as of 2017. According to the Glass Packaging Institute, about 80% of recycled glass containers in the U.S. are made into new containers, with the remaining 20% used for other products such as fiberglass and roadbed.

Recycling glass lessens our impact on the environment and encourages the use of this inert, non-toxic material while creating jobs and cutting manufacturing costs, and thus we miss out on a huge opportunity when we throw our glass in a landfill. That’s why in 2018, Recycling Works was created to become Missoula’s largest and most efficient glass recycling service.

Recycling Works is a non-profit organization that seeks to build a better community through recycling. We offer curbside glass pickup in and around Missoula, and have recycled over 172,000 pounds of glass in less than two years. After light processing at our transfer station, glass is shipped to Momentum Recycling in Salt Lake City, where it’s broken down and converted into cullet. The cullet is then used to manufacture products such as glass containers and fiberglass.

As an organization, everything we do is designed to provide the greatest benefit to our community and the surrounding environment. We offset all carbon emissions generated by our collection & transfer process, and all proceeds from our services are donated to local charities. Since our inception, we’ve donated over $10,000 to organizations such as the Missoula Interfaith Collaborative. Starting as a residential service, we’ve expanded to include commercial glass collection and a curbside compost program, hold quarterly glass drop-off events, and even offer our own Montana Carbon Offsets. We’re striving towards a more eco-friendly future for Missoula, but there’s still work to be done.

Sustainability is a multifaceted process that starts with each of us making a commitment to lessen our impact on the environment. The common refrain “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” is a good place to start. Reducing the amount of goods and energy we use on a daily basis is the most direct way to make our lifestyle more sustainable, but it’s also a great idea to reuse what you already have. If you can’t reduce or reuse, participate in local recycling programs that extend the life of our landfills.

In 2016, Montanans generated over 3.6 billion pounds of trash, but that’s a lie – a lot of that trash wasn’t actually trash. With mindfulness and effort, we can change our definition of what waste is, and get more out of the things we have through creative reuse and efficient recycling processes. If we adjust our system and habits, I believe we can keep Montana the way it’s always been: beautiful and wild.

To learn more about glass recycling in Missoula, visit our website, Facebook, and Instagram.

Jonas Munson is the VISTA member at Recycling Works. This Sustainable Missoula column is brought to you – via the Missoula Current – every week by Climate Smart Missoula and Home ReSource.

Sustainability Happenings

As COVID-19 has altered many community events, some have moved on-line or found creative outlets. Here we offer ideas about sustainable ways to stay involved in our community. If you like these offerings, consider signing up for Climate Smart’s eNewsletter here. And sign up for Home ReSource’s eNews via their homepage here.

Now through November 3. VOTE! Check your registration and ballot status here. Missoula County election information (including in-person and drop-off voting locations) is available here. For information about specific candidates and ballot initiatives, check out the 2020 Voter Information Pamphlet or other candidate information sources.

October 16-25. Home ReSource Annual Auction. This ten day extravaganza is open to all, and features amazing hand-crafted one of a kind items - including the creations from Spontaneous Construction! - unique artwork, local food and many other fun and funky packages. Bid on items, enter the raffle, tune in to the awards banquet, and join all the fun here.

October 24, 6pm. Virtual WildFest. Join Montana Wilderness Association to celebrate the year’s accomplishments, honor our incredible volunteers, take part in an online silent auction, and learn about the important work protecting Montana’s wild places that lies ahead.

October 28, 12pm. Container Deposit Law Webinar. Container deposit laws received renewed attention during the COVID-19 pandemic as many states suspended, or suspended enforcement, of their so-called bottle bill laws. At the same time, there are several initiatives examining how to expand the impact and of bottle bill laws and looking for best practices. This unique webinar, co-sponsored by NERC and NEWMOA, will examine this research and proposals. Register here.

October 29, 7pm. Virtual Lecture: Conservation Gardening. Biologist & gardener David Schmetterling will cover how to landscape with resource conservation, drought, and wildlife in mind using examples, and successes, from his Missoula home on a small, city lot.

November 1, 12pm. Virtual ReCook Cafe. The virtual ReCook Cafe will feature a mix of live and recorded cooking demonstrations of four professional chefs who will be sharing their favorite tips, tricks, techniques, and more to help home cooks get the most out of their food, reducing waste while creating delicious dishes that are sure to make you go "Mmmm!".

September 17 - November 14 (dates added periodically). Virtual Fixit Clinics. Want to try fixing from home? Present your broken item to a global team of expert community repairers and get suggestions for things to try. After all items are presented, participants move to Zoom breakout rooms to implement the suggestions and, hopefully, fix the items.

Through October. It’s still farmer’s market season! The markets look different this year to protect public health, but both the Missoula Farmer’s Market (at the XXXXs) and the Clark Fork Market are happening. Check their websites for more details. CFAC also has a great list of local food resources for consumers.

Find more activities and events at and on Montana Environmental

Information Center’s Conservation Calendar.