Recycling glass is an easy way to make a positive impact on the environment. A product of sand, limestone, or soda ash, glass is one of the most recycled items today, but not all can be recycled. The material that comprises light bulbs, cooking ware, and window panes, cannot be recycled because to do so would introduce impurities into the atmosphere.
Each day 13 million bottles and jars are recycled in the United States. Bottles can be blue, green, brown, or clear. Colored glass is created using a coloring agent that cannot be removed, thus, green can only be recycled into green and brown glass can only be recycled into brown.
Types of Glass
Blue glass, formed naturally from iron impurities in sand, contains cobalt compound additives to give more of a dark blue hue. Blue glass can be used for a variety of products, such as, beverage bottles, and home decorations.
Caused by adding iron, chromium or copper to molten glass during production, green glass has a wide variety of shades. Green also keeps the sunlight and temperature from affecting the contents.
Brown glass is created by adding nickel, sulfur, and carbon to molten glass during production. Brown glass is most commonly used for beer bottles as the brown color helps protect the liquid from sunlight, keeping the contents fresh and flavorful.
Clear glass is made from a combination of sand and other ingredients. It is most commonly used for solid substances, but can be used to store liquids as well.
How Recycling Glass is Done
The process of glass recycling begins with the separation of contaminants. Color mixing or other contaminants can be used to insulate fiberglass or as an ingredient in concrete.
The next step is cullet creation. Cullet, or crushed glass, is formed by using a furnace to melt down bottles and jars. Labels left on glass are burnt off and metal lids are removed prior to cullet creation. Cullet melts at a lower temperature than sand (raw material) in order to create new glass.
Lastly, reformation takes place. Cullet is the basic ingredient in new glass containers. The cullet is melted, molded into bottles or jars and the end product is ready for resale within 30 days.
Some artisans collect antique broken glass for mosaic or jewelry making. When discarded onto the ground, glass does not biodegrade, leaving an endless supply of glass for these unique and eco-friendly art projects. A jewelry-maker from Pennsylvania might laugh when asked what she will do when the glass runs out. There is a century worth of glass that can still be unearthed and used in her pieces.
In some states, glass bottles can be returned for money. For example, in Massachusetts, a bottle of beer will cost you an extra 5 cents. This is considered a deposit on the bottle itself. Grocery stores, such as: Shaw’s and Stop ‘N Shop generally have a bottle return. Customers bring in their empty bottles, feed them to the machine and when finished a voucher comes out reading 5 cents for each returned bottle. This voucher can be exchanged for cash or groceries.