Andover glass recycling facility will be largest in the world

When it’s complete, the 250,000-square-foot glass recycling plant will bring up to 150 jobs to rural Sussex County. In a state where groundbreakings and ribbon cuttings seem to concentrate in urban zones, Tuesday’s construction kickoff for Pace Glass in Andover Township was welcome on all fronts.

“It’s not particularly easy to get new business to come into town, particularly ones on this scale,” said Andover Mayor Janis McGovern. “This is an 85 acre parcel of land and we are absolutely thrilled to have Pace Glass come in.”

The state-of-the art glass recycling center will be the largest in the world, using innovative techniques to make recycling glass material more efficient. Pace Glass owners figured out a way to streamline separating green glass from brown from clear, and broken and contaminated pieces. This means that they can cut production costs and carbon emissions, and hopefully close a gap in the U.S.

“The whole idea of glass recycling, if you look at Europe it’s at 90 percent in Germany. If you go across Europe it’s probably at 70 percent as a whole. In the United States, for some unknown reason, it’s less than 30 percent recycling. So the growth potential in the United States to produce this type of material is huge,” said Pace Glass COO Michael Mahoney.

“There was about 6 to 7 million tons of glass recycled in this country last year. And this facility alone will produce 800,000 tons, so we’re doing our part to raise the amount of cullet level in the U.S.,” said George Valiotis, CEO of Pace Glass.

Cullet is the small, bead-like pieces ground from separated glass. It’s shipped to customers like fiberglass insulation plants, or new bottle-making manufacturers that melt it into a new product. Pace vehicles will collect colored glass from recycling centers within a 200-mile radius and bring it back to the new Andover plant for processing.

“Our feed stock at our current facility in Jersey City looks a little bit like this, it’s co-mingled with dirt and other contaminants from recycling operation. We recover this and pull out large pieces of glass, which is considered cullet, and as long as you separate it by color, there’s a market value for it in the U.S. So the difficult part was actually extracting the glass and getting enough of it to make enough of this material. So we kind of proved the concept in Jersey City and we’re just adding the economies of scale now with this facility,” Valiotis said.

The Andover site is already being touted as a possible national model because it reduces the amount of natural resources used to make glass, like sand and feldspar. Recycled glass already has those ingredients.

When the facility opens in roughly eight months, Pace Glass expects to be pushing tons and tons of this raw material through right away. And since glass can be recycled over and over again with no end, the folks in Andover hope that means the same for long term jobs.