When it comes to recycling, glass is one of the most manageable materials around, especially when it comes from a domestic source. At present, the UK recycles about 71% of its container glass – the term ‘container glass’ referring to items such as bottles and jars. While the current volume of recycled glass exceeds that seen in the past, the glass sector remains keen to increase the quantity of recycled glass by 2030.
Although many elements of household waste can be recycled, some materials are more challenging to recycle than others. Luckily, glass is highly recyclable and can often be recycled repeatedly without losing quality. But what exactly are the processes to be followed when recycling glass? And can all glass be recycled?
In this blog from SL Recycling, we explore the importance of recycling glass, noting key information about how glass should be recycled and the advantages that recycling glass can have. For more informative pieces related to recycling and waste disposal, take a look at our blog. Articles include, What is the Waste Sorting Process?, Advantages of Recycling Metal – Why is it Important to Recycle Metal and What is Waste Management. The Ultimate Guide to Waste Management.
How is Glass is Recycled?
In order to be used again, glass must go through a multi-stage recycling process. This process contains 3 key stages – collection, crushing/sorting and melting/reusing. Below, we offer greater detail about each of these steps.
As a first step, glass is collected from residential and community bottle banks by recycling trucks, these are often organised by local councils. Periodically, residents are supplied with information about which varieties of glass can be placed in collection bins and banks, to limit the organising needed at later stages. Once the glass has been collected, it is then transported to a recycling centre, where the following steps take place.
Crushing & Sorting:
Once bottles and jars have arrived at a recycling centre, they are sorted using a conveyor. Before sorting can commence, a vacuum is used to remove any contaminants such as metal or plastic caps – the glass is then ready for washing. Once the glass is free from additional materials, it can be crushed and sorted by colour using air jets. The crushed glass is then mixed with any raw materials needed to create new glass.
Melting and Re-Using:
The crushing that takes place in the stages prior allows the glass to melt down more easily. Once glass has been melted, it can be shaped to purpose before cooling and producing a final product. Such products include jars, bottles or fibreglass.
Types of Glass that can be Recycled
While glass is a great candidate for recycling, there are varieties of glass that are not recyclable. Knowing which varieties of glass are and aren’t recyclable is important in preventing us from accidentally tossing unsuitable varieties into our recycling bins. While the majority of kitchen glass is recyclable, the definite recyclability of an item can be confirmed by checking for a recycling logo. The presence of a recycling logo means an item is recyclable, while the absence of this logo tells us a product is not recyclable.
Commonly recyclable glass products include:
- Wine & Spirit Bottles
- Beer Bottles
- Mason Jars
- Condiment Bottles
- Perfume Bottles
What are the Benefits of Recycling Glass?
Reduced Water and Air Pollution
According to data from WWF, glass that is produced from previously recycled glass has benefits for both air pollution and water pollution. Relevant research data suggested that when compared to glass produced from raw materials, glass from a recycled source produced 20% less air pollution and 50% less water pollution. In addition, the reduction of waste being sent to landfill is also directly lessened by the recycling of glass.
Another way in which recycling glass benefits the environment is through its reduced use of energy. As listed in the recycling process above, the melting down of material is essential for the production of new glass products. However, recycled glass, also known as ‘cullet’ melts at a lower temperature than raw materials – meaning glass products formed from recycled materials can be produced using less energy than those reliant solely on raw materials. This lower melting point then directly reduced the quantity of CO2 produced by the melting process.
Saves Raw Materials
By opting to recycle glass, the quantity of raw materials required to produce glass is significantly reduced. The process of harvesting new raw materials has a knock-on effect on both energy use and carbon emissions – so limiting the need to harvest raw materials has numerous positive environmental benefits.