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Introduction to Glass Recycling

Because of it's density and weight, glass makes up a large component of all waste. The process of turning waste glass into usable products instead of discarding it is usually very advantageous. Glass 'waste' is usually made up of glassware, bulbs, bottles and other items.

Glass is easily recycled and therefore is one of the most popular items recycled today.  The ingredients of glass are very pure and and the recycling process is fairly quick.  Glass is initially created from soda ash, limestone or sand and is formed into a variety of colors.

State and local level laws govern the rates and methods for recycling glass.  Many cities have mandatory recycling programs and offer curbsite pickup.

People who reside in apartments or multi-housing units, usually deposit recycled glass into containers that are shared in common areas.  These may be collected by the city or by private companies.  Many times glass is collected in it's own container because glass is easily broken and can both contaminate other recyclable materials and is a hazard to the people who sort the recyclables.

How is Glass Recycled?

Here’s a breakdown of how glass is recycled: 

  1. Glass is separated if necessary: Depending on the end use, recycling glass commonly includes separating it into different colors. Once glass is colored with a coloring agent, the color cannot be removed.  Therefore, colored glass can only be recycled into glass of the original color.  First, colored glass is separated into color to be recycled or if left combined, the glass can be recycled and reused into fiberglass or an ingredient that is used in concrete.

2.  Metal and other contamients are removed: Metal and plastic lids are removed.

   2. Glass is Crushed (Made into cullet): Cullet is melted down.  Conveniently, any paper left on the glass is burned off.  Recycled cullet is processed at a lower temperature than new glass so substantial comparative energy savings are achieved by recycling glass.

   3. Mold and Shape: The melted glass is poured into molds and/or shaped for the end product.

Benefits of Glass Recycling

Glass is a material recycled by many curb side collection programs, and it is also accepted at most municipal recycling centers. Here are some of the important reasons to recycle glass containers: 

  • It can take up to one million years to break down glass naturally.

  • To be recycled, glass is first crushed into 'cullet'.   Compared to making new glass, 40% less energy is consumed when starting with cullet. because it melts at a lower temperature.

  • Making new glass consumes a tremendous amount of energy compared to recycling glass into new containers. To manufacture new glass, extremely high temperatures are necessary. This creates pollution from manufacturing facilities and consumes energy.

  • Recycled glass is used in fiberglass, turf, ammunition, tiles, manufactured sand (for beaches in need), and of course, containers.

  • Glass has a low rate of chemical reaction with glass container contents. This is because it is made from natural materials.  This makes glass a safe material to be recycled and reused.

  • Cash refunds are offered for most glass containers.  Check with your state for refund availability.  At least 11 different U.S. states offer refunds.

  • Most glass is made up of up to 70 percent recycled glass.

  • Current estimates are that 80% of glass is recycled.

  • Glass can be recycled over and over again without loss of quality. 

  • Processing time is minimal in recycling glass.  From the recycling facility to a store shelf can take just 30 days.

Products Created From Recycled Glass

While the primary end product of recycled glass is new glass bottles and jars, there are some other uses for recycled glass, including: 

  • Ingredient in concrete

  • Ingredient in roadway reflective paint

  • Sand on beaches that have been washed away by erosion

  • Ceramic tiles

  • Picture frames

  • Fiberglass

  • Friction for matches and ammunition

  • Used as abrasives for sand-blasting

Glass can be recycled an infinite number of times without losing its purity or strength. Therefore it is important to take advantage of the programs and ways we can recycle this important resource.

Contributor / Editor - Matt Kennedy - Refer questions to info@wastecare.com

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