Sunday, July 29, 2007

Glass Bottle Beache(s) - Giving back to mother Earth

I always knew that sand is silica and silica is what glass is made out of. But I never thought that glass can actually be recycled into sand. Why, don't ask me that; may be it's the imagination that I never cranked up. Or worse yet, may be I didn't observe the problem at all. Yes, I think, to give myself a benefit of doubt, that it was the latter. I have been living around beaches for about four and a half years now. But I never thought for a moment that beaches might be under erosion. Yes, they are! Every year water is pulling more sand in it at sea. Moreover, the modern construction practices, specially in the United States, has made it possible to erect buildings almost at the water line now. The second picture on the right shows buildings right on water. It has resulted in beaches' natural layout to be disturbed so much that they are virtually gone now. In South Florida, around Miami Fort Lauderdale area the situation is much worse. Due to man-made ports and high-rises more and more sand is being pulled back into sea.

The erosion is so mind-boggling that the authorities are now planning to somehow reverse that sand loss. One of the steps being taken is to put artificial sand on the beach. The problem, however, is the source. I had always known of one, the sea itself. That's how beaches the world over where authorities can afford do it. They pump sand from the vicinity of the beach, but under water, back to the land. South Florida (Broward County), on the other hand, is exploring something new and unconventional. They are now experimenting with recycling glass back to silica and throwing out on the beach.

Here are a few links from the Broward County website about the history and cost of the project:

In gist, 21 of the 24 miles of beaches in this county are under serious erosion. They are very important for the economy, bringing about $420 million (as of 1995). But, the cost is prohibitive and there are regulator hurdles. Logistically, there is not enough glass to recycle and there are ownership issues of waste glass.

So the next time you throw away a glass bottle in waste, think about it. Glass bottles in recycling bin can actually mean a wider and more beautiful beach near you. The problems and hurdles mentioned above are very temporary. But let's not forget, it all starts with the raw material without which this won't ever be possible. So, as a first step, let's start tossing those used beer and wine bottles into your recycling bin.