Glass recycling at Target goes to landfill due to contamination


MISSOULA, Mont. - Finding places to recycle glass is hard in the state of Montana. That's one reason people use a glass recycling bin outside Target. It's the only retailer in the state with a glass recycling program.

"This is awesome that Target does this, because Montana is so lame when it comes to recycling, and I'm big into recycling," said recycler Carol Schwan.

People come around daily to drop off glass. But there is a catch.

"It was very disturbing to me and disillusioning I thought," said recycler Connie Gensemer.

Gensemer drives about 30 miles from Stevensville just to recycle. She drops off glass at Target, but she says one day, "I decided to talk to him and find out where the recycling center was and when I asked him, he gestured up on the hill. And I said, 'What center is up there on a hill?' and he said, ‘That's the dump,'" said Gensemer.

She was talking to an employee from Republic Services. That's the company that picks up the glass from Target.

NBC Montana asked and we were told the same thing.

We're told the glass doesn't make it to a recycler because it's contaminated, which means it has to go to the dump.

Contaminates include bottle caps, wine corks and the list goes on. Some people throw cardboard and trash in there.

If you look, you can see a warning, a sign that says, "If any contaminates are found in the container, the entire container is taken to a landfill." The signs are all over the bin and some people don't notice them.

"They need a better sign, or more information or something like that," said recycler Holly Schwind.

But folks still want the opportunity to recycle glass.

"They really are offering western Montana an opportunity to recycle glass, because where else can we do this? And we shouldn't abuse this opportunity," said Gensemer.

A Target employee told NBC Montana that glass that isn't contaminated is ground up and used for road construction.

We contacted Target's corporate public relations to get their side of the story.

"Target is the only retailer in the state of Montana with a glass bottle recycling program, and this is just one example of the many ways we empower guests and team members to lead a more sustainable lifestyle," said public relations specialist Jessica Stevens.

Stevens' official statement went on to say, "At Target's Missoula glass recycling station, only clean-glass containers (no caps, lids or corks) are accepted. Trash, plastic bottles, bottle caps, aluminum cans, cardboard boxes and plastic bags are all considered contaminates. Recycling loads contaminated with these materials are not eligible for recycling and must be sent to the landfill. We continue to partner closely with Republic Services, our recycling vendor, to ensure the success of this program. We are aware that many of the recycling loads are, in fact, too contaminated to recycle. We ask that guests follow correct recycling guidelines to know which materials are accepted for recycling and which materials contaminate a load."

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