One for the road: Guam's roadways will soon be paved with glass sand

Updated: Dec 17, 2020

Glass sand was used as a sub-base to support the paving of the GCA Trades Academy’s parking lot . Photo courtesy of GCA Trades Academy.

About 5,000 tons of glass that otherwise fill up Guam's landfill will eventually scatter around roadways-- but not in their current form. Save your wine and beer bottles for the road. Literally.

By December, Guam will have its own glass pulverizing machine that will transform empty bottles into fine sand, according to Zero Waste Guam Working Group (ZWG). This is part of the ZWG's Greening Roadways Infrastructure Initiative, which was recently piloted at the Guam Contractors Association (GCA) Trades Academy. “We were a willing partner. They needed a pilot project, and we were in the process of building, and, more importantly, wanted to play a part,” said Dr. Bert Johnston, education director of the GCA Trades Academy.

Portions of the 20 tons of glass sand shipped in conjunction with the Zero Waste Guam Working Group (ZWG) have been used as a sub-base to support the GCA Trades Academy parking lot construction in Barrigada. “The pilot project shows one use of recycled glass,” Johnston said.

As part of the Sustainable Materials Management contract through Guam EPA, this demonstration project utilized processed materials from Andela Products, a New York-based company that specializes in pulverized glass for construction projects. American President Lines provided transportation in partnership with the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) Pacific Basin Chapter.

“The COVID-19 crisis has created a CEO moment - this is an opportunity uniquely suited for local CEOs to step up and lead. By partnering with the Zero Waste Working Group and handling the crushed glass’s shipping cost, we demonstrate that the private industry has a role in developing the green Guam economy,” said Charlie Hermosa, president of American Presidents Lines.

"Implementation of the Greening Roadway Infrastructure (GRI) initiative will conserve landfill and hardfill space on Guam by reducing waste disposal," as stated in the GRI guidance document developed by Jacobs Engineering under the direction of Guam EPA in January 2020. As of 2018, Guam’s Roadway Network includes 155 miles of routed roads and 860 miles of village streets, with the length of village streets continuing to grow.

"As part of the Zero Waste Plan, the greening of Guam’s roadway infrastructure is an initiative that encourages the use of recycled materials in roadway construction. The use of these recycled materials will not only reduce waste in landfills and those being shipped off-island but will also conserve Guam’s natural resources that are currently being used for construction," said First Gentleman Jeff Cook, chairman of the Guam Zero Waste Working Group.

According to Conchita SN Taitano, executive director of the Guam Zero Waste Working Group, the use of different types of waste materials generated from construction-related activities has been evaluated, tested, and utilized in roadways throughout the United States for many years. "Recycled materials have been used in road base and sub-base, and paving mixes," she added.

Moreover, the Federal Highway Administration’s policy recognizes that recycling and reuse can offer engineering, economic and environmental benefits and, therefore, recycled materials should get first consideration in materials selection. Also, Guam’s Public Law 24-100 requires the use of available recycled glass in road construction projects. The Federal Highway Administration Recycled Materials Policy is as follows:

Recycling and reuse can offer engineering, economic and environmental benefits. Recycled materials should get first consideration in materials selection. Determination of the use of recycled materials should include an initial review of engineering and environmental suitability.

An assessment of economic benefits should follow in the selection process. Restrictions that prohibit the use of recycled materials without a technical basis should be removed from specifications.

The Guam Zero Waste Working Group seeks to develop a fully circular economy of glass bottles, envisioned as a valuable commodity. Based on industry rate, glass sand sells for $40 to$50 per ton as recycled aggregate.

The Greening Roadway Infrastructure Initiative ties in with Guam's goal of building a recycling enterprise zone located at the Port Authority of Guam. The Recycling Enterprise Zone Act was signed into law nearly a decade ago and now looks to become a reality.

In June, Senator Sabina Perez introduced Bill 362-35, also known as the Guam Zero Waste Act, which proposes a comprehensive collection of cost-saving, environmentally focused measures to promote recycling and zero waste initiatives in Guam. “With the drastic economic impacts of the continuing global pandemic, we must act now to improve the management of waste streams and reduce their financial impact on our community,” Perez said.

. “The Guam Zero Waste Act modernizes local statutes, improves recycling and cleanup processes that are costly and inefficient, and establishes a series of significant zero waste measures to boost our economy and protect our environment,” she added.

Drafted in close collaboration with the Guam Environmental Protection Agency, the legislation updates the statute creating the Recycling Revolving Fund and recognizes that the global recycling industry has changed significantly in the 16 years since the Guam legislature established the fund.

With China banning the importation of most forms of recyclable materials in 2017, today’s traditional recycling models are no longer financially sustainable. “China’s dramatic shift undermining the global recycling industry, along with the pandemic-induced economic downturn, are back-to-back body punches to our solid waste system,” Perez said. “The Guam Solid Waste Authority is tracking to lose $2 million this year. We must proactively develop solutions, including zero waste initiatives, to protect our environment and reduce costs,” she added.

Just this week, during the November session of, the 35th Guam Legislature also began discussing another measure introduced by Sen. Clynt Ridgell that would grant tax breaks to businesses that incorporate recycling and zero waste operations and initiatives into their business development plans.

"Working with the Guam Development Authority, we drafted this legislation to encourage recycling by creating tax incentives," Ridgell stated during the 35th Guam Legislature's session on Thursday. "Guam needs to come up with new ways to promote recycling and reduce the waste stream."

Ridgell’s Bill 401 would codify a framework for the Guam Economic Development Authority to recommend the issuance of qualifying certificates, which grant tax breaks for up to 10 years, to businesses that operate zero waste, and recycling companies. Tenorio, chairman of the IslandWide Beautification Task Force said.

“The Administration has committed to integrate glass waste into our circular economy in 2021, which means that glass bottles that were going into the landfill and illegal dumpsites will now be a valuable commodity. By using recycled glass sand in our road construction, and utility bedding, we can reduce the need for annually mining thousands of tons of limestone from our land. This will reduce greenhouse gases, mitigate climate change, conserve our natural landscapes and invigorate our economic recovery by creating green jobs.” The Lt. Governor is also leading Guam’s efforts to incorporate the United Nations 2030 Sustainability Goals into planning and development through the Guam Green Growth (G3) Initiative.