by: Leslie Jones
Glass waste is recycled into new products every day. Such products as kitchen and bathroom countertops are made from used glass that has been put through a specific recycling process. Color and chemical composition are some ways different glass jars and bottles must be sorted before the recycling process can begin. Since glass retains its color after recycling, many recycling centers insist that different colors of glass be separated before the recycling process; the most common colors being clear, green, and brown (amber).
Heat-resistant glass like Pyrex or borosilicate glass should not be disposed of in the glass recycling bin. Other kinds of glass, like windows, ovenware, crystal, etc. are manufactured through a different process, and even a single piece of this material will alter the viscosity of the fluid in the furnace at remelt.
Cullet, the industry term for ground, furnace-ready scrap glass, is always part of the recipe for new glass. The more that is used, the less energy has to be used in the furnace. This makes using cullet profitable in the long run, lowering costs for glass container manufacturers thus benefiting the environment and passing lower costs on to the consumer.
Color sorting makes a difference since glass manufacturers are limited in the amount of mixed color-cullet (called "3 mix") they can use to manufacture new containers. Separating recycled container glass by color allows the industry to ensure that new bottles match the color standards required by glass container customers.
Glass is an ideal material for recycling and can be recycled endlessly without loss of quality or purity. No other recyclable commodity can make such a claim. Recycling glass is a popular part of recycling, but it doesn’t come without challenges.
Contaminants render recycled glass cullet unusable. Cullet needs to be clean and free of the paper or plastic labels and plastic or metal lids and caps. Other contaminants, such as metal or asphalt affect the strength of glass and can contribute to dangerous abnormalities like cracking or shattering after production. Paint flecks occurring from painted labels on jars or bottles can affect the purity of glass, too.
Due to its sheer weight and density, glass makes up a large part of residential, commercial, and industrial recycling. As delicate of a product as glass is, it can break or crack during the shipping process. It also, unfortunately, takes up an exorbitant amount of room in shipping since it most often shipped empty to an end market to be filled with their product and resold. End markets are sometimes difficult to find, too, considering the challenges inherent in the entire glass recycling process and sometimes higher costs involved. The number of new products made from recycled glass proves to be lower than those made from such recyclables as paper and plastic.
All in all, recycling benefits almost always outweigh the challenges.
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Glass Recycling Facts | Glass Packaging Institute, http://www.gpi.org/recycling/glass-recycling-facts (accessed January 24, 2014).
Glass recycling - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glass_recycling (accessed January 24, 2014).