Glass Recycling in Caño Martín Peña

Project Sponsor: Caño 3.7

Student Team Members: Julia Afthim (Chemical Engineering ’23), Tatyana Barthold (Biomedical Engineering ’23), Eduardo Carrillo (Chemical Engineering ’23), and Newton Le (Aerospace Engineering ’23)

Project Advisors: Alex Sphar and Brigitte Servatius

Abstract: The pollution of Caño Martín Peña, a natural tidal canal, prompted a plan to dredge its entire length of 3.7 miles. This plan is a part of Caño Martín Peña Restoration Project. We evaluated the feasibility of glass recycling in the Caño Martín Peña area for our sponsor, Caño 3.7. We concluded that glass recycling is especially difficult on an island but is possible with support from local businesses. Our team developed a guidebook in both English and Spanish to provide ENLACE with active ways to implement glass recycling, recommendations for uses of locally recycled glass to complete the dredging project as supported by our feasibility calculations, and recommendations for future research.

Team Caño at BiciCaño Bike Tour with Advisor Brigitte Servatius and Sponsor Francisco De La Cruz

Project Background: Environmental justice is the fair, unbiased treatment of people regarding environmental regulations; a lack of environmental justice has been shown to cause detrimental effects to communities with high rates of poverty and/or high populations of minority ethnicities (United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2017). In many cases, environmental injustice means that the government does not provide protection from environmental and health hazards in an equal and fair way. Therefore, communities that fall in the previously mentioned groups must support themselves with the resources that they do have. A community that has had to support themselves are the neighborhoods surrounding the Caño Martín Peña (Canal Martin Pena in English) in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Since its formation in the 1930s, the area has not had an appropriate drainage system to prevent flooding, an appropriate sewage system for waste management, or suitable infrastructure to house its residents (De La Cruz, 2022). From these foundational issues came an idea to use the canal as a resource for trash disposal; residents would dump their sewage and trash into the canal to eliminate it from piling up in their neighborhoods. However, this pollution caused environmental issues for the communities when the canal no longer flowed freely and flooded when it rained. Law 489 was enacted in 2004 to address the poor conditions and flooding in Caño Martín Peña; this law includes plans to dredge the canal to avoid flooding in the nearby residential areas. To ensure this plan becomes a reality, Caño 3.7 was formed. Caño 3.7 is made up of three community organizations, each with specific goals regarding the canal dredging process: ENLACE, the G-8, and the Caño Martín Peña Community Land Trust (CMPCLT). ENLACE manages the projects regarding environmental efforts towards the canal and has recently received funds from the Puerto Rican government to prepare for dredging the canal. The G-8 is a group of eight community leaders, one from each neighborhood of the Caño Martín Peña area, which works to include community input into the canal dredging process. The CMPCLT oversees the land within the Caño Martín Peña area.

The Caño Martín Peña

Project Description: Francisco De La Cruz, a project coordinator from ENLACE, believes that an appropriate waste management system is essential for the Caño Martín Peña to remain unpolluted post-dredging (De La Cruz, 2022). One aspect within this waste management system is the recycling of materials. Martín Peña Recicla, INC. (MPR) is a recycling company that has been working with ENLACE since 2011 to improve the environmental state of the Caño Martín Peña area, as well as the community’s knowledge on recycling (Naveira, 2022). However, Miguel Naveira, one of the two employees of MPR, explained that their reach has been limited because they lack employees and funding. José Bauza, from the economic division of ENLACE, recommended that our project team investigate the feasibility of glass recycling in the Caño Martín Peña area. After walking around the community, our team observed multiple businesses selling glass beer bottles that were then left in trash cans or throughout the streets. These glass materials could be used for several of the current projects at ENLACE, including landfill cover material, construction materials, or even art materials for local microbusinesses. Our team planned to understand the current state of glass recycling and glass-waste in the Caño Martín Peña area and analyze potential uses for recycled glass. The team explored how much glass waste is produced in the Caño Martín Peña area by surveying businesses that produce glass waste. We also interviewed companies around Puerto Rico that currently recycle glass to understand their procedures and costs related to glass recycling. Along with working on-site to gather information, we researched potential uses for glass recycling to provide recommendations to ENLACE. Finally, we created a guidebook for ENLACE to understand the steps we took to understand glass recycling and its uses. This guidebook provides our suggestions to ENLACE on how to implement a glass-waste recycling initiative in the Caño Martín Peña.

Team Caño at a Volunteer Cleanup for ENLACE

Results and Findings: For this project, a series of interviews and surveys were completed by our team; four companies participated in these interviews. To learn more about recycling practices in the Caño Martín Peña area, we interviewed Martín Peña Recicla INC. (MPR). MPR is a local recycling company for just the Caño Martín Peña area; Miguel Naveira from Martín Peña Recicla INC. explained that MPR collects recycling materials from the Caño neighborhoods and helps to promote recycling. To gain more of a broad perspective on recycling in Puerto Rico, our team interviewed Rubén González Abreu from Reciclaje del Norte (RDN). Through this interview, we gained an understanding on why glass is recycled much less than plastics, cardboard, and paper materials, since González Abreu sees glass recycling as “unprofitable.” To see the potential uses of glass, our team interviewed companies who currently work on projects that use pulverized glass. Bloques Caribe Inc. is a construction company that incorporates glass cullets in a mixture for cement blocks; José Mercado Quintana, the administrator of Bloques Caribe Inc. (BC) in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, uses glass in the cement mixture for both environmental and economic purposes. Rebecca Popowsky, the OLIN Labs external research coordinator, provided our team with information about a research project currently underway. OLIN Labs is hoping to spread knowledge about the uses of glass aggregate as an alternative to sand. Both Bloques Caribe Inc. and OLIN Labs specified that they use Andela products to pulverize their glass bottles. From the interviews and surveys conducted, glass recycling appears to be economically feasible in the Caño Martín Peñaa. The surveys concluded that majority of businesses in the area would recycle their glass bottles and sell enough glass bottles to be used in a microbusiness that pulverizes glass. The Andela GP mini is used in Bloques Caribe Inc., this machine has potential to be implemented in the Caño Martín Peñaa area. The businesses we surveyed produce an estimated annual 44.35 metric tons of glass bottles. Through our calculations, we concluded that dumping these 44.35 metric tons into a landfill would cost approximately $1,863. By using this glass in for new products, like cement blocks or soil-less soil, the Caño Martín Peña would economically benefit. For example, we estimated that Bloques Caribe INC.’s annual savings for substituting glass into their cement block mixture is approximately $507,892, based on the weight of an 8”x8”x16” block and the estimated 11% glass in weight per block.

Conclusions and Recommendations: From both the interviews and surveys, conclusions and recommendations were made by our team for ENLACE to continue researching glass recycling in the Caño Martín Peña area. Our team came to the following conclusions:
– Businesses and residents around the Caño Martín Peña are willing to recycle if they understand the purpose behind it and the process is feasible.
– Recycling in Puerto Rico relies primarily on non-profit organizations and/or environmental groups because there is a lack of support from the local government.
– Glass recycling is arduous to implement since, unlike plastics and metals, unrecycled glass has no monetary value.
Our team has the following recommendations for ENLACE:
– We recommend that ENLACE encourages businesses in the Caño Martín Peña area to recycle their glass bottles through an incentive program.
– We recommend that ENLACE and Bloques Caribe Inc. come to an agreement to recycle glass from the Caño Martín Peña area.
– We recommend that ENLACE collects glass waste from businesses around the canal and starts a micro-business operating a glass pulverizer to produce glass cullets. Uses for the glass cullets should be explored further.

Click here to view our final IQP report.

Click here to view our guidebook to ENLACE.

Click here to view our final presentation to ENLACE.