For weeks we've been reporting on changes in recycling that mean the collection of glass bottles and jars will be phased out.  Exactly when that happens depends on the waste hauling contact in your municipality.

But Erie News Now has learned that some local environmentalists and university educators are brainstorming on how to rescue glass recycling.

The group has met a couple of times.  On Monday, they gathered at Mercyhurst University. The group includes municipal sustainability coordinators, representatives from the Pennsylvania Sea Grant and professors and researchers from all the region's universities, Mercyhurst, Penn State Behrend, Gannon and Edinboro.

Sudden changes in the waste hauling and sorting industry indicating that glass has "contaminated" the recycling stream, or no longer has a market, has everyone confused.

Environmentalists like Brittany Prischak, Erie County Sustainability Coordinator, say glass is clearly still recyclable, and they are considering research and a feasibility study to continue collecting glass locally. "We’re discussing is there a feasibility study we can work on to try and find drop off programs, can we set up a bin in a couple different locations where people can bring their glass and then we take it and then we take it and transport it to a glass recycling company,what does that look like--that’s what we’re working on right now," Prischak said.

In the city of Erie, residents have been recycling glass and other materials in a single stream since 2008.  Recycling coordinators have visited the facilities that used blowers to separate out paper and sort other materials.  They don't understand what suddenly changed to make companies like Waste Management and their sorting facility at Neville Island near Pittsburgh to want to stop handling the glass.  

As glass is phased out, residents will soon have no choice but to throw their glass in the regular trash headed for the landfill, but environmentalists as the community to be patient while the work on an alternative. "By removing the glass from the recyclables, all the rest of the stuff can be recycled, while we try to find a solution, but for now we have to throw it in with the refuse," said Sarah Galloway, Erie Sustainability Coordinator.

Prischak is encouraged by feedback from the community, that they are bothered by the idea of throwing their bottles in the landfill, or that the "contamination" issue may have been sending items they thought were being recycled to the landfill all along. "We don’t want residents to think we’re just giving up that’s not how it is, what we want to do is we want them to understand the changes, what they need to do in the meantime, it may be extremely disappointing and sad to toss glass bottles into the landfill, in the meantime we are trying to find alternatives," Prischak said.