Developmental Investigation of Recycled Color Mixed Glass in Engineered Soils

EPA Contract Number: 68HERC21C0029
Title: Developmental Investigation of Recycled Color Mixed Glass in Engineered Soils
Investigators: Roark, Richard
Small Business: OLIN
EPA Contact: Richards, April
Phase: I
Project Period: March 1, 2021 through August 31, 2021
Project Amount: $99,940
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (2021) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)


This project will develop an engineered soil product, and engineered process, that repurposes city-wide waste-stream glass into a soil product suitable for horticultural and green infrastructure projects. The project supports the EPA’s goal to improve sustainable materials management to conserve materials and resources.

Recycling of solid waste materials, like glass, remains challenging to urban systems due to costs of recycling in comparison to landfill disposal. Process costs for glass cullet have increased, while products made from cullet have marginal commercial value. This makes glass recycling economically non-viable for most cities. A practical solution for converting local solid waste to local usable infrastructure effectively is therefore critical to improving use of recycled materials.

OLIN is partnering with Andela Products and the City of Philadelphia to significantly reduce the landfilling of glass waste. The project will develop an engineered approach to converting glass waste into a refined soil product that can serve the needs of the city in urban development of green spaces and landscaping. The technology consists of an engineered soil, and an engineered process plan, that cities can implement to utilize pulverized glass, soil, and amendments, to produce a clean, functional, soil product with demonstrated plant growth, and water draining potential similar to sand-based soil blends. By replacing sand with pulverized glass, the project addresses shortages of construction-grade sand, and the costs of sand use in soil preparations. This efficiency is further improved by facilitating on-site processing, and soil blending, improving the value for mixed-color, small-particle glass cullet.

The comparative life cycle assessment (LCA) that our team completed in 2019 demonstrated that recycled glass fines may reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 67% compared to virgin sand. A greenhouse study assessed horticultural performance and found it to be comparable to that of natural sand-based soil. Currently, we are completing a material analysis, and mesocosm study to test the material’s infiltration performance and leachate, critical to maintaining water quality in urban green stormwater infrastructure (GSI).

By creating a workable, engineered plan for municipalities to cost effectively repurpose their own glass waste streams for local production of glass-based soil products, this project will reduce need, and therefore environmental impact, of sand production, while significantly reducing city landfilling costs for glass. The market for this product and process includes all urban and suburban regions that are focusing efforts on green space development and water management.