Did you know that glass is one of the longest-lasting man made materials? Left to decompose on its own in a landfill, it could take as long as one million years to do so. I’m reminded of the glass artifacts found in Egyptian tombs and other ancient civilizations. Pretty amazing.
This may seem distressing to the environment-minded, but the good news is that glass inert, meaning it won’t leach harmful chemicals into soil or waterways. Even more good news: Glass is infinitely recyclable, and items made with recycled glass are just as durable and high-quality as those made with virgin materials.
This knowledge has made me redouble my efforts to make sure my glass household waste gets reused, repurposed, and recycled, even though I’ve learned that my local MRF simply throws glass collected from curbside bins into the landfill because glass has become challenging and costly to recycle.
I’ve compiled a list of some of the glass items at home that might, at some point, need to be discarded. Even if all of them aren’t able to find a new life, it’s good to know that they might not need to spend the next million years in a landfill.
1. Bottles and Jars: As more and more curbside recycling programs have stopped accepting glass, you might be wondering what to do with your beverage bottles and food jars that pile up. Collect your glass empties at home and take them to a local recycling center when your errands take you in that direction. Recycling centers that separate materials on the spot are more likely to actually recycle glass, rather than send it to a landfill, since the glass is placed together and it isn’t at risk of breaking and contaminating other types of recyclables.
2. Mirrors: Here’s the bad news — mirrors are virtually impossible to recycle because of the chemical coating on the glass that makes them reflective. But the good news is, an intact mirror is relatively easy to re-home by donating it to a thrift store. And even a broken mirror has its uses. I love the idea of using a large chunk of mirror in this wall art medallion project, or breaking it up into smaller pieces and crafting it into a mosaic. Many broken things can be made beautiful and functional again with the use of a little creativity! If you’ve got some cracked or chipped dishes you were thinking of getting rid of, you can use those for such a project. And if you are lucky enough to have a two-way mirror on your hands, and you’ve got some tech skills, you can turn it into a cool smart mirror.
3. Perfume Bottles: Once they’ve run dry, those pretty glass bottles are likely recyclable alongside glass jars and beverage bottles (just check with your recycling service or center first). But as pretty as they are, old perfume bottles are fodder for a fun craft or home décor project, such as a flower arrangement or a nightlight. They’re even pretty just lined up on a sunny windowsill.
4. Glass Bakeware: Tempered glass dishes and bakeware are specially formulated to be more durable than regular glass, and to withstand temperature changes. Because of this, glass bakeware should not be recycled with other glass products — in fact, doing so can taint a batch of recycled glass! Intact glass kitchenware that’s in usable condition can be given away or donated to your local thrift store, while broken pieces can be creatively used for DIY projects. But if you’re not that handy, use big chunks of broken glassware or ceramics in the bottom of a planter to help with drainage. Just wear work gloves, and be careful not to cut yourself when you’re repotting the plant!
5. Glass electronics screens: The glass screens on smartphones, computers, televisions, and other electronics are different from, say, glass used to make a wine bottle. The best way to dispose of this type of glass is to take it to an e-cycling facility where they can separate the components and recycle them individually. Then, they can crush the glass and reformulate it to make new electrical equipment.
With these tips, I hope you’ll be inspired to divert more glass waste from the landfill.