Glass Sand Beach
March 19, 2007, 6:52 PM
Filed under: Beach

March 19, 2007

Sitting on a Crushed Glass Beach?
….. Soon you and your children could be, on Hollywood Beach.

by Hollywood resident, Christian Mulack

Broward County and the City of Hollywood  have initiated a project to study the feasibility of using recycled glass for erosion control at the beach. Last summer (2006), there used to be a test plot on the beach right alongside the Hollywood Broadwalk at Pierce Street. The fenced-in area contained several fields with various percentage mixes of glass and sand. The idea is to take finely crushed recycled glass, intermix it with sand, and use it to fill so-called “hot spots” that need erosion control between the traditional beach renourishments.

The information board on the wire-fenced test plot stated five reasons for using recycled glass on the beach.

  1. Erosion Control
  2. Recycling Glass is Challenging
  3. The finely crushed glass feels virtually the same as sand
  4. Surveys and focus groups show support for glass beach re-nourishment
  5. Win-Win project for erosion control and recycling challenges

As for No. 3: Some of us have looked at the “glass-sand.” It does not quite look like sand. It sparkles like shattered glass splinters in the sun. A good portion of that crushed glass is larger than regular sand grain. It certainly does not feel like sand. It appears to be coarse and have a sharpness to it that makes one think of serious injuries when this material gets into children’s swimsuits or into their eyes!

As for No. 4: Support from surveyed individuals would probably be little, if
they knew the following: The glass is coarse and a lot of it is sharp. Real life tests with children playing in this glass have apparently not been made. Hollywood would be the first municipality in the US and in the world to dump crushed glass on its own beach. The financial advantage has likewise not been determined.

No.5 at this point can be considered an assumption for advertising purposes, at best.

I had the opportunity to speak with Beach Erosion Manager Steve Higgins of the Broward County Biological Resources Division and with Project Manager Phil Bresee of Broward County Public Works and Recycling. They kindly explained that the research looked at geological compatibility and tested the glass biologically, technically, chemically and physically. The physical testing however did not involve real life testing with real children playing or anybody sitting in this glass-mix.

The next step would be a ‘seaward application’, involving the Army Corps of Engineers and the US Fish and Wildlife Department with some hundred tons of this glass-sand mix dumped on some 300 foot stretch of Hollywood’s North Beach in the area of Custer Street.  If permits are issued, the time for this first real life test application would begin after turtle nesting season, between October 2007 and April 2008, presumably this coming November.

Initially glass may have to be imported from out of state, as neither Hollywood nor Broward County has a crushing facility. If the test was successful, a glass crushing facility would eventually have to be built locally. Who would build it, and who would own it, operate and maintain it, are questions not yet raised, much less answered.

Anything written about the beach-glass seems to portray this project as
financially and environmentally beneficial, but neither of these supposed benefits has been conclusively proven.  It is not clear what is really driving this idea to try out glass on a highly populated beach rather than a remote beach.

The political momentum for sound recycling efforts could more safely be used to lobby for far more comprehensive statewide recycling legislation with deposit fees on glass containers like so many states have. That would attack the waste problem at its source without the dangerous potential of crushing the glass and dumping it on the local beach.

The question why anybody would want to try out crushed glass on a densely populated municipal beach concerns me greatly. The study has yet to show that this concept would make financial sense for Hollywood’s residents, saving us taxes or fees. This does not seem likely. But even if it did, wouldn’t one try this out on some remote beach first, where “guinea pig glass-beach visitors” could be controlled and others kept out? Not having a remote beach in Hollywood – who, if not the taxpayers, would benefit from this, you ask? That’s the point. Why take the risk and push for Hollywood?

Glass may be made from sand, but that does not allow the reverse conclusion that sand is or should be made from glass.  What if residents and tourists don’t like the idea of going to a beach that sports the world’s first crushed glass beach? Apart from the environmental risk, what about the economic damage when people just don’t want to come to such a glass beach? What if there are injuries that involve Hollywood’s new kind of “glass-sand”?

Regardless of how smoothly the crushed glass is being described, I would encourage everybody to get informed about the “glass-sand,” then picture 16,000 tons of it per year. And before hundreds of tons of glass are being dumped on the beach irreversibly, consider letting the Mayor, City Commissioner and County Commissioner know what you think about sitting in the glass.

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