How to Recycle Glass Properly and its Importance

By: Savannah Frank
Published on October 6, 2011
Last Updated on Sunday, July 19, 2015 at 11:24 AM
Total Updates: 5

Recycling every possible household material would be the optimal option in order to do your part in sustaining the environment. But if you had to choose one item to be disciplined in recycling, glass makes a good case for itself. Don't misunderstand the fact that recycling other materials such as paper, plastic and cardboard is extremely beneficial in any recycling program, but for the common family trying to make the biggest impact with their recycling - glass is the way to go. Glass bottles and jars are 100% recyclable, and can be continuously recycled without any deterioration in purity or quality with unmatched environmental benefits. Firstly, the savings on raw materials is colossal. Over a ton of natural resources are conserved for every ton of glass recycled, including 1,300 pounds of sand, 410 pounds of soda ash, 380 pounds of limestone, and 160 pounds of feldspar. Secondly, energy costs drop approximately 2-3% for every 10% cullet (recycled glass) used in the manufacturing process of glass. Along with cutting carbon dioxide emission (8% reduction for every 10% of cullet used), extending furnace life in manufacturing, and the absence of by-products, these statistics speak for themselves. Using 50% recycled glass in the production of new glass products would save enough energy to power over 20,000 homes for one year and remove approximately 180,000 tons of waste from landfills every month where the glass could reside for over 4,000 years. Unfortunately, Americans alone throw away enough recyclable glass to fill a 1350 foot tall tower in one week.

Unfortunately, there are a large amount of uncertainties when it comes to home recycling due to lack of knowledge. Searching the internet for glass recycling ideas will result in a good general outline of how and what to recycle. Most common questions revolve around the types of glass that can be recycled, separation of colors or glass, standards regarding cleanliness of the glass and so on. Here are some basic guidelines for the recycling of glass:

  • Glass containers, like those used for food and beverages, can be recycled. Other materials such as light bulbs, window glass, and cookware materials cannot be recycled due to additives in their manufacturing.
  • While it depends on your local recycling program, separating glass by color makes a giant difference for the manufacturer that will be utilizing your recycled glass. Separating into two categories flint (clear) and brown/green is sufficient enough.
  • Glass bottles and jars do no not have to be rinsed. The labels or internal contents do not pose an issue, although rinsing to avoid smell is a generally accepted concept.
  • Broken glass bottles can be recycled. However, avoid crushing the glass as it causes more work for the receiver of the glass.
  • The aluminum or steel caps on the bottles should be removed and recycled separately.

The availability for glass recycling programs largely depends on the area in which you reside and whether or not a market exists for the precious recyclable material. The Glass Packaging Institute website (www.gpi.org) is an excellent resource for all things glass. On this webpage, you are able to search for glass recycling programs in your area. If there aren't any, why not start one? There is no harm in presenting the issue to local government. With the industrial and corporate world making such a stride towards eco-friendly practices and green manufacturing, taking the recycling initiative to companies in your area is also an option. Several large factories allow employees as well as the public to bring recyclable materials to the premises, including glass, in areas that lack such programs.

The savings in natural resources, energy, and landfill mass as a direct result of glass recycling is astounding. The entire practice of recycling is not much different than throwing the container into the trash. While it may take an infinitesimal increase in effort to get the glass to the proper recycling drop-off, the benefits heavily outweigh the extra 30 minutes out of your day. The one glass bottle that you recycle today could power the 100-watt light bulb in your household for 4 hours.

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