ABC's of Recycling,
G – The 3 R’s of Glass
Jul 03 2022
Glass is one of those materials that fits with every style of 3R eco-action. You can reduce how much you use (think about buying the biggest jar of spaghetti sauce and freezing half for later.) You can reuse (canning jars, condiment jars, homebrew beer bottles.) And you can recycle it, of course!
That’s right. Glass is a valuable resource that can be turned into other valuable materials.
For example, in New Orleans, students from Tulane University created a recycling program that keeps glass out of the landfill by turning it into sand. The newly created sand can be used in many ways including sand bags to protect homes from storms and for restoring local beaches impacted by erosion.
Their non-profit “Glass Half Full” is a success story for sustainability! Check out more of this organization’s popular tiktok videos by following EcoFran (see video at right).
Since glass can be melted repeatedly, broken glass (cullet) can be recycled into new glass bottles and jars. Additionally, glass can be spun into fiberglass insulation, incorporated into glass countertops, manufactured into fiber optics, and added to concrete and asphalt.
Ever saved a bottle for the deposit? That’s recycling too. Pop, beer and wine bottles are some of the best bottles to recycle, which means less energy goes into turning them back into tasty drinks. Check out this cool EPA widget to see how much energy you can save by recycling different items, including glass bottles.
Tips for excellent glass recycling:
- No mirrors, window glass, corning-ware, drinking glasses or lightbulbs. They have a different chemical composition and can’t be recycled.
- No broken glass! And be careful when dumping bottles and jars into large recycling bins. Broken glass can contaminate the whole load as well as harm waste haulers.
- Rinse and remove metal lids or caps from the glass jar or bottle before tossing in the recycle bin.
At manufacturing plants, recycled glass reduces emissions, conserves natural resources, extends the life of plant equipment, and saves energy. The Glass Packaging Institute offers tons of other interesting facts!
Here in Northern Illinois, we’re lucky because glass recycling is well established and supports local businesses. And, it’s only getting better, as many Chicagoland bars and restaurants are now organizing separate glass collections as part of a Don’t Trash the Glass collaborative program. In public spaces, you might see cool applications of glass recycling and repurposing, such as the sea-blue floor at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium.
The durability of glass provides exceptional opportunities for reuse. Although plastic containers are lighter and require less fuel to transport, glass is still the winning container for acidic foods, like tomatoes, fruit jelly or jams, and anything pickled. At home, glass containers are better than plastic for food use. There is no chemical leaching. No build up of smell. No staining or warping. No melting in the microwave or the dishwasher. And they can be reused forever.
From reusing glass jars and containers to recycling glass bottles, cheers to the many ways we can keep glass out of the landfill!