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The List: 7 Truths About Glass Recycling
By Jessica Harlan | March 17, 2017
Learn more about recycling glass, and how to repurpose it, if your recycler does not accept it.
A while back, there was brouhaha in my area when a newspaper article revealed that local recycling facilities were hauling glass to the landfills rather than recycling it. Our city’s recycling facility insists that glass is being recycled (The website, listing accepted curbside recyclables, even clarifies, “Yes! We do collect glass!”). But my neighbors still wonder: Should they really be putting their bottles and jars into their curbside container, and if they do, will these glass items in fact be recycled?
I decided to do a little research on glass, and on how it can be recycled, repurposed, and reused. Read on to learn more, and then take our quiz to test your knowledge about glass recycling.
1. Most glass is infinitely and completely recyclable. This means that food-grade glass can be recycled again and again, and, actually, new glass bottles are almost always made using at least a portion of recycled glass, according to the Glass Packaging Institute. Recycling glass not only saves on the raw materials needed to make virgin glass, but it also reduces energy usage and extends the life of equipment, such as furnaces.
2. Recycling glass can offset your carbon footprint. According to the Glass Packaging Institute’s calculator, if you recycled just 5 glass containers a week, you’d be saving enough energy to power a compact fluorescent bulb for 35 hours!
3. Glass is more likely to be recycled in places with single-stream recycling programs. Part of the reason some recycling programs have stopped accepting glass is because glass tends to break in the curbside bins or during pickup, and once broken, can injure workers, as well as contaminate other recyclables such as paper or metal. With programs that require recyclables to be separated, this isn’t as much of an issue. If you’re unclear about where your city stands regarding glass, call them or check their municipal website. And if you want to be certain your glass is being recycled, consider dropping it off at a collection facility.
4. Recyclers who don’t accept glass have good reasons for it. One recycling facility in Georgia is not accepting glass for a number of reasons. Among them, they say the weight of glass makes it too costly to transport, and additionally that it is too difficult to separate out different types and colors of glass.
5. Colored glass needs to be recycled with like colors only. Just as you wouldn’t wash a red sweater with white undershirts, recyclers do not combine differently colored glass. Instead, green glass can only be recycled with green glass, amber with amber, and so forth. Certain minerals are added to create different glass colors — e.g. iron, chromium, or copper is added to make green glass — thus, colored glass can only be used to produce more glass of that same color. Colored glass helps prevent sunlight from negatively affecting the bottle or jar’s contents, which is why it is so often used for beer and wine bottles.
6. Pyrex and other types of tempered glass are not recyclable. Pyrex bakeware is indeed a form of glass, but because of the way it is manufactured to withstand high temperatures, it is not recyclable. We recommend donating usable Pyrex items, and placing broken Pyrex in the trash. Window glass is also typically not recyclable. If you have a local organization that collects hard-to-recycle items, see if your non-food-grade glass items are accepted.
7. Glass is great for upcycling projects. If your recycler no longer accepts glass, don’t despair. Instead, get crafty. Glass jars and bottles can be used for decorative storage, to make candleholders or vases, as well as coin banks or birdfeeders. And if projects aren’t your thing, consider donating the jars to a local school or art program.
How do you recycle or repurpose your household glass waste? Share your suggestions in the comments below.
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About the Author
I love finding new ways to green my family's life as painlessly as possible, and sharing those ideas with folks who want to do the same.more