Benefits of Glass Recycling

Glass Recycling Is Efficient and Sustainable; Saves Energy and Natural Resources

Recycling glass bottle in public bottle bank
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Glass recycling is a simple way to make a beneficial contribution to preserving our environment. Let’s take a look at some the benefits of glass recycling.

Glass Recycling Is Good for the Environment

A glass bottle that is sent to a landfill can take up to a million years to break down. By contrast, it takes as little as 30 days for a recycled glass bottle to leave your kitchen recycling bin and appear on a store shelf as a new glass container.

Glass Recycling is Sustainable

Glass containers are 100-percent recyclable, which means they can be recycled repeatedly, again and again, with no loss of purity or quality in the glass.

Glass Recycling is Efficient

Recovered glass from glass recycling is the primary ingredient in all new glass containers. A typical glass container is made of as much as 70 percent recycled glass. According to industry estimates, 80 percent of all recycled glass eventually ends up as new glass containers.

Glass Recycling Conserves Natural Resources

Every ton of glass that is recycled saves more than a ton of the raw materials needed to create new glass, including 1,300 pounds of sand; 410 pounds of soda ash; and 380 pounds of limestone.

Glass Recycling Saves Energy

Making new glass means heating sand and other substances to a temperature of 2,600 degrees Fahrenheit, which requires a lot of energy and creates a lot of industrial pollution, including greenhouse gases. One of the first steps in glass recycling is to crush the glass and create a product called “cullet.” Making recycled glass products from cullet consumes 40 percent less energy than making new glass from raw materials because cullet melts at a much lower temperature.

Recycled Glass is Useful

Because glass is made from natural and stable materials such as sand and limestone, glass containers have a low rate of chemical interaction with their contents. As a result, glass can be safely reused, for example as refillable water bottles. It can even be used to make fences and walls. Besides serving as the primary ingredient in new glass containers, recycled glass also has many other commercial uses -- from creating decorative tiles and landscaping material to rebuilding eroded beaches.

Glass Recycling is Simple

It's a simple environmental benefit because glass is one of the easiest materials to recycle. For one thing, glass is accepted by almost all curbside recycling programs and municipal recycling centers. About all most people have to do to recycle glass bottles and jars is to carry their recycling bin to the curb, or maybe drop off their empty glass containers at a nearby collection point. Sometimes different color glasses have to be separated to maintain cullet uniformity.

Glass Recycling Pays

If you need an extra incentive to recycle glass, how about this: Several U.S. states offer cash refunds for most glass bottles, so in some areas glass recycling can actually put a little extra money in your pocket.

In general, we can do better: in 2013 only 41% of beer and soft drink bottles were recovered and recycled, and that total was down to 34% for wine and liquor bottles and 15% for food jars. States with beverage container deposits see recycling rates double those of other states. You can find tons of interesting glass recycling facts and figures here.

Edited by Frederic Beaudry.