WHAT IS IT
Glass is 100% recyclable – and it can be recycled endlessly. This means that glass does not lose quality or collect impurities as it goes through the process of reuse. New glass is made from materials like sand, soda ash, limestone, and cullet (which is the word for recycled glass that is ready for the furnace). Different kinds of glass – like the glass used to make food containers versus the glass used to make windows – needs to be processed differently for recycling. Glass recycling is also referred to as a closed-loop system because the process does not create any additional waste or by-product.
Beer bottles of different colors. Public domain photo by George Chernilevsky, March 22, 2018. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
HOW IS IT USED
The average glass container produced in the United States contains roughly 24% recycled glass. Manufactures buy back whole and broken glass to make new glass products used as containers for food, beer, wine, soft drinks, toiletries, perfume, cosmetics, medicine, and other consumer items.
If glass is too contaminated it can be recycled for a “secondary” application, which includes being used in sandblasting, concrete, tile, and filtration systems, as well as alterni-beach sand to combat erosion.
Shards of melted glass. Photo by Angela Marie, July 10, 2011. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
For every ton of glass recycled, more than a ton of raw materials is saved, including 1,300 lbs. of sand, 410 lbs. of soda ash, 380 lbs. of limestone, and 160 lbs. of feldspar. Recycling glass also cuts CO2 emissions – every 6 tons of recycled container glass reduces carbon dioxide production by 1 ton. Glass produced using recycled glass also reduces related water pollution by 50%.
A pile of damaged windshields at a post-consumer glass processing facility in North Carolina. Photo by Ildar Sagdejev, July 5, 2009. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
States that mandate a deposit return for each bottle recycled have a more than 2.5 times higher rate of glass container recycling.
Recycling one glass bottle saves enough energy to power a computer for almost half an hour.
The bottoms of all glass bottles are engraved with an embossed “peanut” that reveals where it was manufactured.