Dear Recyclebank: Can I recycle broken glass Christmas ornaments? –Kate B.
Dear Kate: It’s almost inevitable that breaking out the Christmas ornaments or breaking down the Christmas tree becomes a bit too literal. Whether the kids were too excited decorating the tree or the thrill of hanging your favorite ornament was ruined by an unstable branch, it’s important to make sure broken ornaments are handled safely.
Unfortunately, there are a couple reasons that broken glass Christmas ornaments cannot be recycled. As with ordinary bottles and jars, broken glass should never be placed in the recycling bin for curbside pickup: It can harm sanitation workers during collection and processing, and contaminate other recyclables as it gets broken into smaller and smaller pieces and becomes harder and harder to separate. Besides the safety hazards of broken glass and the risk of contaminating other recyclables, these glass ornaments wouldn’t be recyclable anyway, because they’re typically made with mixed materials. Glass blown for ornaments is usually coated on the inside with a reflective chemical coating, called silvering solution. This gives the ornaments their beautiful reflective sheen, and it’s often coupled with lacquers, paints, frosting powders, glitter, fabric, ribbon, and other decorative materials that bring colorful holiday cheer to your tree. As a result, even the unbroken glass ornaments that don’t have a place in your home anymore shouldn’t be put out for curbside recycling.
Before safely bagging broken glass for trash pickup, you might consider turning an unfortunate mishap into a fun project. Just because it was that ornament’s time, doesn’t mean no good can come of it! If you feel comfortable navigating the sharp edges, try a simple DIY project to up-cycle the old ornament into a new one (or try the more advanced version if you’re feeling especially ambitious). And as for any whole ornaments you don’t want laying around anymore, you can always donate them.