Utah Stories

Momentum Recycling: Why Glass Recycling is Important and Easy

Utah ranks well below the national average for glass recycling. What can you do to change that?


Kate Whitbeck co-owner of Momentum Recycling Photos by Justin Higginbottom

Most Utahns recycle their glass in the nearest trash container.  The state averages six to ten percent for its glass recovery where the national number is around 34 percent.

Momentum Recycling is working on changing all that. Located in the city’s industrial west side, it is the leading glass recycling facility in the state. “Pretty much any glass being recycled in the state is coming to us,” says Kate Whitbeck, co-owner of Momentum along with her husband Jeff and brother-in-law John Lair.

The idea of busting up bottles might sound like a great way for a person to release aggression, but on an industrial scale, it is a much more efficient process. Whitbeck explains that glass is first dumped into a giant hopper and moved along a conveyer belt where workers hand select green and clear pieces. The rest moves into a cylinder and is smashed by 24 automated hammers. A machine screens out contaminants, and separates the glass into two sizes. It is then heated to 190 degrees, melting any remaining glue, while a ferrite magnet pulls out metals.  The glass now resembles sand and is placed into large white bags. Most of it is sent to the Owens Corning fiberglass pant in Nephi. The rest is used for sandblasting, water filtration and coating for asphalt.

Originally from Utah, Kate went to work for the Peace Corps in Kyrgyzstan (where she also met her husband). They later returned to Central Asia to work for American-based NGOs implementing USAID and European-funded projects. She doubted she would ever return here, let alone own a glass recycling company. But return they did, and in 2008, Momentum acquired trucks and first started business as a recycling collection company — visiting bars, restaurants, and government buildings.“The focus was on zero waste…We wanted to help our clients divert as much waste as possible from the landfill,” says Kate.

In 2012 they built the plant and got a contract with Salt Lake City that included twenty drop-off locations and curbside pick-up. Curbside pick-up customers now number around 3,500.

Momentum provides diversion reports to businesses they serve showing the equivalent effect of their recycling on the environment — for example cars taken off the road.

But for those businesses or individuals not environmentally motivated, she provides an economic perspective by noting extending landfill life will save people money or that recycling plants provide manufacturing jobs. Much of the labor used at Momentum comes from the addiction treatment facility Odyssey House.IMG_4954

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