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Because You Asked

Should I Cushion the Glass in My Recycling Bin?

By Recyclebank |

Broken glass doesn’t belong in your recycling bin, so how can you prevent breakage and dispose of broken glass properly?

Dear Recyclebank: Should glass bottles and jars be cushioned in the recycling bin to prevent breakage? What do I do with broken glass? –Susan S.

Dear Susan:
Broken glass is one of those unfortunate items that is technically recyclable, but is not usually accepted for recycling — so keeping your glass bottles and jars from breaking is an important step in glass recycling.

If your curbside program is single-stream, and you are super organized with your waste, a great way to keep your glass from breaking when you put it in the bin is to place your paper items at the bottom. By lining the bottom with the newspapers and magazines, you’re softening the impact while also saving space in the bin (by compressing paper that would take up a lot of space if put on top). As an added bonus, you won’t have to worry about high winds blowing your paper all over the street.

However, if your curbside program requires you to sort by material, you shouldn’t add non-glass material to the bin for cushioning. Mixing materials will certainly gummy up the works and may make your entire batch unrecyclable. The best way to prevent your glass from breaking before it gets to the recycling center is to place each item in the bin one at a time, instead of tossing them from a distance. Going for a three-pointer from your garage door is something best left for your aluminum cans!

Broken glass is usually considered trash, for two good reasons: First, broken glass poses a safety risk to the employees who handle it. According to The Times News Weekly, in 2010, the New York City Department of Sanitation reported several hundred serious injuries to its employees as a result of broken glass disposal. The second reason broken glass isn’t accepted by recycling programs is because the type of glass its made of cannot be identified — and glass made for mirrors, windshields, and food containers are all made using different chemicals and processes, so these different types of glass cannot be recycled in the same way.

Before putting your broken glass in the trash, double check with your waste hauler to see if they have special accommodations for recycling broken glass — some programs may accept broken glass for recycling as long as it is kept separate from undamaged bottles and jars — or a preferred way to package glass for garbage removal. Generally, a safe way to package your broken glass for garbage removal is to put it in a paper bag or cardboard box and label it “Broken Glass” with a thick black marker. Then, leave it on top of or next to your garbage can.

If your program does not recycle broken glass and you’re interested in finding ways to keep your broken glass out of the landfill, contact local framers, windshield repair shops, and art schools to see if they will take your larger pieces of broken glass.

SOURCES, Glass Packaging Institute, Penn Waste, Recycling Council of British Columbia, Waste Management

What does your community’s waste hauler say about broken glass? Tell us in the comment section below.

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  • Cindy W. 2 months ago
    I remember one of the home repair shows where they took broken glass to this guy who made countertops from the broken pieces. I can't remember the show now, however, he had this method to compact broken shards of glass into forms for countertops. They turned out beautiful. Sorry I can't remember the name of show, but, maybe someone out there also remembers it.
  • June S. 5 months ago
    I don't have curbside recycling where I live, but take all my recyclables to one of the nearby recycling containers. This consists of large metal receptacles - one for glass (divided into clear glass and colored glass), one for cardboard, and several for mixed recyclables. When I recycle the glass, my only option is to drop them into the large metal container ... where I can hear them break as they hit either the bottom of the container or other glass already in the container. It can't be helped!
  • Gina L. 5 months ago
    We try our best to keep broken glass out of the recycle bin. However, the trash/recycle people toss it around like it is no big deal. I hear the smashing of glass and other products whenever the large recycle trucks empty the bins. I guess they don't care/know the dangers of broken glass.
  • Dee R. 8 months ago
    With the broken glass at our home, first I try to use "flat-ish" pieces and save them in heavy duty containers until there is enough to make a pretty top on an old table. The older kids can participate and it gets rid of some glass pieces. Also, the idea about putting them in the bottom of planters: we hit them a couple more times to make them all kind of the same size and then put them in the bottom of our really large planters around the patio area. I printed a sticker that I placed on the bottom and the inner side below the can still see some of that sticker, but I would be sick if someone thought they were planting me new flowers as a favor and got cut! You have to be so mindful of everything: producing items that aren't recyclable or is difficult and costly to recycle, for the most part are things we've inherited. When you are given things you also have to take responsibility for them. This site has opened my eyes to just how much trash we make on our planet earth. We have to take the initiative to produce less items that can't be recycled and/or the items that need recycling , follow suit with some of our world neighbors and invest in turning it around to make energy, without harming the environment! The old brown and blue glass that once held medicines, Vicks, etc....I use them in my decorating. I group the like colors together to make a statement. Then I use pillows of the same color to tie it all together.
  • Sue C. 8 months ago
    Thank you for this article on broken glass. I make it a point of not putting broken glass in the recycling bag for the exact reasons stated in this article. I didn't want anyone to get hurt on broken glass. However; I didn't realize that there are other ways to get that broken glass recycled through other sources. All good to know.
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