Glass can be recycled indefinitely without losing its purity or quality. However, there are some types that you should not recycle.
We look at how to recycle different types of Glass and what products cannot be recycled.
The low energy needed to melt down Glass for a different purpose is one of the main benefits of recycling it. Glass is created from materials such as sand and soda ash. It can also be made with limestone or “cullet,” recycled Glass that has been melted down.
Glass products are always made with recycled Glass. According to Glass Packaging Institute, recycled Glass can substitute up to 95% of raw materials. This can reduce carbon emissions as well as trash in landfills.
According to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data, in 2018, 25 percent (3,060,000 tons) of the glass packaging/container waste was recycled.
Certain glass products cannot be recycled and must go to a unique glass recycling facility. Understanding what Glass can or can’t go through mainstream glass recycling is essential.
How do you recycle Glass?
Some municipalities require that Glass be separated from other recyclables. Others allow people to group all materials, with paper, plastics, and Glass sorted later. When recyclables are brought to a material recovery center through curbside pickup or a recycling drop-off location, they are sorted by type.
The Glass that is to be recycled is sent to the glass processing plant, where it will be sorted once again. Glass processing companies use color sorting to separate Glass into categories such as clear, amber, and green. Color sorting is necessary because mixing colors when melting Glass can affect the final product’s structure.
Sorted Glass is passed through Beneficiation to remove contamination such as metals, bottle caps, or labels. The Glass is crushed, then melted at 2,600-2800 degrees Fahrenheit in a furnace.
Glass can be poured into new containers, bottles, jars, and other shapes once it has melted. According to estimates, 80% of recycled Glass is reused for new glass products.
This process is carried out by 49 glass plants and 80 glass recyclers in the U.S., which reduces carbon emissions, raw material consumption, energy costs, and waste.
What types of Glass can be recycled?
About 18% of Glass is in glass recycling facilities from the food and beverage industries.
You can recycle clear Glass in bottles, jars, and containers. The most common type of Glass in use is soda-lime.
Other Glass includes:
- Borosilicate contains at least 5% boric oxide, and aluminosilicate contains aluminum oxide and is chemically durable.
- 96% silica is processed to remove most of the non-silicate components.
- Fused silicon dioxide is the most expensive type of Glass.
The Glass that cannot be recycled
Glass recycling is very efficient in terms of energy. Still, it must be sorted using a process for color composition to remove contaminants. Glass comes in different colors and types, each with another melting point. This is why some “glass” materials cannot be recycled using the standard curbside glass recycling process.
The glass products not recyclable with the standard bottles and jars include Pyrex and oven-safe dishes. All items with frosted, plate or Glass, Pyrex, mirrors, and ceramics and Pyrex are considered contaminants. An entire glass recycling load is rejected if it contains these products.
You cannot recycle lightbulbs through curbside recycling. Some of them even qualify as hazardous waste. Local recycling programs and stores that sell items like lightbulbs or windows. Some recycling programs offer collections. Lowe’s, for example, has recycling bins at its stores that collect incandescent bulbs, batteries, and plastic bags.
Pyrex is not recyclable because it has been treated to resist higher temperatures. Pyrex’s website states there is no recycling for broken or chipped Pyrex. Customers are advised to dispose of them with regular garbage. Treehugger suggests that you reuse your broken Pyrex (see below).
Windows (including stained Glass, laminated, or tempered) have a chemical composition different from glass bottles and jars. Donate your windows to a non-profit such as Habitat for Humanity if they are in good condition. Window glass can be recycled in unique recycling plants into asphalt or fiberglass.
The company that made the eyeglasses will usually recycle them. Lions Club is well-known for its collection of old eyeglasses, which it salvages for individuals and communities who do not have the means to pay for eye care or cannot afford it. They also collect sunglasses and prescription glasses.
Ceramic dishes: Most recycling plants do not accept ceramics. However, some companies that recycle bricks and concrete may take them.