Glass Recycling. What you don’t know.
Glass never seems to raise any red flags in the eco friendly department, but it probably should. While glass is incredibly useful, virtually inert, and infinitely recyclable, it is not largely recycled or re-purchased by end users at anywhere near its true potential.
There are several reasons for this, but the short answer is that it is expensive. It’s important to understand that recycling is a business, and if the end product does not fit into the market then it’s not going to be sold or produced.
The irony is that recycled glass (known as cullet) is a fantastic ingredient for making new glass. It reduces the need for raw material, it produces less CO2 emissions during production, and it contributes to a higher quality glass than the raw materials can by themselves. Raw materials can bubble or leave streaks as some of these particles may not melt down properly; where the cullet has already been through this process and melds seamlessly with the new material it is being made into with virtually no streaks or bubbles, making for a finished glass without imperfections.
So why is recycled glass cullet so expensive. There are several reasons. Firstly, there is a lot of contamination in single stream recycling. A glass peanut butter jar that has not been properly rinsed can ruin a batch. Broken glass is a hazard to workers, and to the recycling facility’s machinery. A jammed or broken machine can stop production for hours. Glass is heavy, which makes for high freight costs. Finally, there are specific needs from the manufacturers that would require specific colors, or types of glass to fulfill and sorting glass to that degree is a very labor intensive process.
The next time you’re reaching for a glass bottle at the supermarket thinking that it’s a great thing to recycle, we’d encourage you to keep using your refillable bottles instead. The purpose of this blog post is not to paint glass as an awful thing for the environment, but simply to use it as an example to illustrate the need for reusable solutions first with all of our product purchasing choices.