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Glass makes up a large amount of the household waste that we accumulate. In recent years, we have all become more educated on environmental issues and now have a greater understanding and awareness about minimising waste and conservation. The ‘Household Recycling Act, 2003’ required all local authorities in England to provide a separate bin to be collected every two weeks, with two types of recyclable materials in it. In 2008, only 37% of waste was being recycled, this has been increasing by 3% every year. Ever wondered what happens to glass when it is recycled?

What’s the Process?

Whether you put your glass in the council recycling bin or you take it to a bottle bank, all glass goes through the same process when being recycled. When the glass is collected, it is delivered to an MRF (materials recycling facility) or a glass recycling treatment plant. Once in the treatment plant, the glass is sorted and contamination is removed, such as metal bottle tops and paper labels, some of these sorting processes are done manually. The glass is then put into a vertical dryer, so as to remove any moisture and dust. The cullet then goes into a machine – to remove aluminium before being transported to sorting machines. The first stage of this particular process is to remove other contamination, such as – ceramics, lead crystal glass, heat resistant glass, metals and stones. The materials then go to the sorting machine, where some glass may be rejected. Now that the cullet is decontaminated, the next process is to sort it into the different colours. The machine that does this can detect three different colours: flint (clear), amber (brown) and green. The last stage is to crush the glass to size; it is then tested to insure that it meets the specifications required. The materials are then supplied to bottle and jar manufacturers to make into new bottles and glass. Some recycled glass is used for aggregates and construction materials. It will be added to concrete, or mixed with other materials for laying walkways, driveways and also for making tiles.

Glass Recycling Facts

  • It is unknown how long it takes glass to break down; we do know it’s a long time as glass that was made over 3000 years ago is still being found today in the Middle East!
  • Glass is 100% recyclable. It can be recycled over and over again without losing quality.
  • Glass – jars and bottles are 100% glass, but not to be used with other types of glass, like Pyrex and window panes, this glass is manufactured through a different process.
  • One ton of carbon dioxide is reduced for every six tons of recycled glass used in manufacturing.
  • The energy saved from recycling one bottle will power a 100 watt light bulb for an hour.
  • In 2008, the UK recycled 1,650,000 tonnes of glass; however 1,000,000 tonnes still went through the residual waste stream and went to landfill.