How to Recycle Glass

Medically Reviewed by Mahammad Juber, MD on January 16, 2023

Recycling has many benefits. It can help decrease the effects of climate change, create more jobs, and can save on natural resources. While many Americans understand these benefits, more than 20 million tons of recyclable waste is still thrown in the trash each year. 

Many people consider recycling to be too complicated or time-consuming, especially since recyclables cannot be mixed and must be separated. When you have several materials that can be recycled, it can make you feel overwhelmed and stressed. However, with the right tools and knowledge, the overwhelming feelings that sometimes come with recycling can be alleviated. Recycling can be made simple. 

Understanding the importance of recycling is only one step in the recycling journey. Next, you need to understand what types of materials can be recycled, how they affect the environment, how to separate different materials, and where you can recycle them. 

Many products and materials can be recycled. Those that can’t, can often be donated, sold, or upcycled and repurposed into something new. Some common recyclable materials most people know about include paper, plastic, metal, and clothing and household textiles. 

One material that many people may not realize is recyclable is glass. When people learn that glass is a recyclable product, many have questions about recycling glass. These questions often include which glass products can be recycled, and how to recycle glass. How does glass impact the environment, both in the manufacturing aspect and in the recycling world?

Is Glass Bad For the Environment?

It’s common knowledge that plastic harms the environment, but what about glass? Is glass bad for the environment?

When you think about glass products compared to plastic, you might assume that glass has less of an impact on the environment. However, comparing these products is not as black and white as you may think. When comparing single-use beverage containers, such as plastic and glass bottles, it’s been noted that glass bottles have a greater negative impact on the environment than their plastic counterparts. This is because glass bottles weigh more than plastic bottles and need more energy and resources to make.

However, when it comes to recycling, unlike many plastic products, glass products are permanent and can be recycled repeatedly for various uses. For the most part, and despite being resource-intensive, glass is also environment-friendly. 

Additionally, recycling glass tends to be cheaper than creating new products because it uses no raw materials when recycling old.

Can I Recycle Glass?

If you’ve ever wondered, “Can I recycle glass?”, the answer is yes. Most glass can be recycled, though there are some considerations to keep in mind. For example, broken glass cannot be recycled as it risks injuring those who work with recycled products. Further, since it’s a permanent item, glass can be recycled continuously. 

Despite almost all glass being recyclable, you should be cautious of placing different glass items in the same recycling bin. While most glass is created from the same elements, such as sand, some are more fragile than others and can easily break when recycled together. This includes light bulbs and windows. 

How to Recycle Glass?

To begin your glass recycling process, make sure you have collected and cleaned the glass materials you wish to recycle. Cleaning your recyclables will help prevent contamination. Also, when recycling glass jars and bottles, ensure that the caps and lids have been removed. Caps and lids are often made from other materials, such as plastics and metals, which should be placed in separate recycling bins. Recyclable materials should not be mixed. 

Once you have completed these steps, it’s time to find a place that will accept your glass recyclables. You can check with your local garbage pickup company and ask about their recycling program. If they don’t accept the glass products you want to recycle, reach out to other local recycling programs, businesses, and government offices. You may also find recycling bins in public areas where you can put your recyclables. Just make sure they accept glass. 

Glass Recycling Process

Recycled glass is collected from curbsides, public venues, and other sites. The recyclables are then taken to a recycling plant or manufacturing firm, where they are crushed into smaller pieces known as cullet. The cullets are then sorted, cleaned, and crushed even more, all in preparation to be mixed with other raw materials, including sand and soda ash. These materials are then placed into a furnace, to be melted and shaped into molds. The molds are then used to create new products, such as bottles and jars.

Glass Recycling Facts

There are several things to consider when recycling glass. Glass recycling facts include: 

  • All glass containers and cullets must be free from contaminants such as old food particles, metals, gravel, and stones. 
  • As with separating different products, separating colors can also benefit the recycling process. This is because manufacturers are limited to no more than three mixed colors at one time during the repurposing process. Separating your colors helps the recyclers adhere to the strict recycling and manufacturing processes. 
  • Different glass products should be recycled in different bins. Mixing glass products can cause production problems. Separate glass containers from products like windows and lightbulbs. 
  • Glass can be recycled continuously without any quality or purity loss. 
  • Glass food and beverage containers should be recycled separately from other glass products.
  • Glass is made from common materials, including sand, limestone, soda ash, and cullet. 
  • Recycled glass can substitute up to 95% of raw materials. 
  • Recycling glass can help reduce greenhouse gasses and other emissions. 
  • Recycling glass creates more jobs.
  • Recycling glass helps save on energy. 
  • Recycling glass requires fewer raw materials to be consumed. 
  • The last 30 years have seen weight reduced in glass bottles by up to 40%. 

Besides recycling glass food and beverage containers, these products can often be reused and refilled. When recycled, glass is usually repurposed back into more containers and sheets. However, recycled glass can also be used to create: 

  • Fiberglass 
  • Brick and clay manufacture 
  • Special glass products such as light bulbs and computer screens
  • Decorative glassware 
  • Water filtration

Show Sources

Break Glass: “What is Glass Recycling?” “Glass Bottles Have a Larger Environmental Impact Than Plastic Bottles- Study.”
Glass Packaging Institute: “Glass Container Recycling Loop.”
Less is More: “Glass Containers.”
Recycling Partnership: “What are three benefits of recycling?”
The European Container Glass Federation: “Is glass a sustainable material?”
United States Environmental Protection Agency: “How Do I Recycle?: Common Recyclables.
WWF: “Recycling Glass.”

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