Leaders of the City of Flagler Beach desire for their coastal community to be a trailblazer in environmental stewardship. The City Commission is committed to protecting the planet and choosing renewable and sustainable options, even if it costs a little more.

Flagler Beach purchased a GPT-1HD Glass Pulverizer System that reduces residents’ glass waste into reusable glass gravel and sand products. The City introduced this large glass recycling machine, nicknamed “Big Blue,” during an Earth Day celebration. Big Blue can process more than 3.5 tons of glass waste per hour. Recycling glass on-site saves the City a sizeable amount of money on fuel and dump fees.

The machine cost $199,940 and was in the Sanitation Department’s budget for fiscal year 2021-2022. The City Commission also decided to initiate a $2 recycling fee for residents to help mitigate the cost of 100% glass recycling.

The City’s Sanitation Department began curbside recycling pickup for glass waste in 2022. Flagler Beach residents dispose of their glass recycling in the same recycling bin with bottles, tin products and aluminum cans. Residents can also recycle corrugated cardboard when separated from the bin. Residents do not need to remove corks, paper labels, caps or other non-glass articles because the recycling machine automatically separates them. This non-glass waste is sold to local construction companies for products such as concrete filler.

Big Blue transforms the recycled glass into gravel and sand, and 100% can be reused within City limits. These products can be used to create sandbags, decorative landscape material, glassphalt (a type of asphalt), fire pit glass, drainage, kitchen countertops and much more. The City hopes to be a model for other cities on how to implement local and sustainable glass recycling. The public can buy 25-pound bags of glass gravel that Big Blue creates for $35.

The sand produced by Big Blue meets all of the Florida Department of Transportation standards and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regulations. The City can use sand for the City’s alleyways, landscaping, pothole filler and other Public Works projects. Big Blue’s sand was used to create resident sandbags for Hurricanes Ian and Nicole.

The revenues from selling the machine’s byproducts benefit the Sanitation Department’s budget and help keep down resident waste disposal costs. Big Blue is just the first step for Flagler Beach to create a self-sustaining recycling program.

By Katie Dockhorn

Katie Dockhorn is the Assistant to the City Manager for the City of Flagler Beach. The City of Flagler Beach, population 5,205, is located in Flagler County.