Of all the materials that we are continually reminded of as consumers to recycle, glass has to be within the top three on that list; the other being paper and aluminum. I have to admit that I prefer glass and aluminum over paper though. Paper cannot be washed clean of oils and for paper that has oil soaked into it, it can’t be recycled along with clean paper. The simple reason for that is because paper is usually heated and washed which will release the oils into the batch of paper being recycled and therefore contaminate the other clean paper. It will however, compost nicely.
But I digress. If I absolutely must buy a product, I will search for it first in a non-packaged form, then I will look for the product packaged in glass or aluminum. If I look for paper packaged products, it has to be paper packaging that is clean of food oils. I tend to buy very few products that have packaging in the first place, but this is my criteria.
So I thought I would run through a simple and basic run down of the life cycle of a glass container, so here it goes:
- The consumer throws glass into a recycle bin.
- Glass is taken from the bin and taken to a glass treatment plant.
- The glass is sorted by colour and washed to remove any impurities.
- The glass is then crushed and melted, then moulded into new products such as bottles and jars. Or it may be used for alternative purposes such as brick manufacture or decorative uses.
- The glass is then sent back to the shops ready to be used again.
- Glass does not degrade through the recycling process, so it can be recycled again and again.
Some Fact About Recycling Glass:
- Glass is 100% recyclable and can be recycled endlessly without loss in quality or purity.
- Glass is made from readily-available domestic materials, such as sand, soda ash, limestone and “cullet,” the industry term for furnace-ready recycled glass.
- The only material used in greater volumes than cullet is sand. These materials are mixed, or “batched,” heated to a temperature of 2600 to 2800 degrees Fahrenheit and molded into the desired shape.
- Recycled glass can be substituted for up to 95% of raw materials.
- Manufacturers benefit from recycling in several ways: Recycled glass reduces emissions and consumption of raw materials, extends the life of plant equipment, such as furnaces, and saves energy.
- Recycled glass containers are always needed because glass manufacturers require high-quality recycled container glass to meet market demands for new glass containers.
- Recycled glass is always part of the recipe for glass, and the more that is used, the greater the decrease in energy used in the furnace. This makes using recycled glass profitable in the long run, lowering costs for glass container manufacturers—and benefiting the environment.
- Glass containers for food and beverages are 100% recyclable, but not with other types of glass. Other kinds of glass, like windows, ovenware, Pyrex, crystal, etc. are manufactured through a different process. If these materials are introduced into the glass container manufacturing process, they can cause production problems and defective containers.
- Color sorting makes a difference, too. 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.
- Some recycled glass containers are not able to be used in the manufacture of new glass bottles and jars or to make fiberglass. This may be because there is too much contamination or the recycled glass pieces are too small to meet manufacturing specifications. Or, it may be that there is not a nearby market for bottle-to-bottle recycling. This recovered glass is then used for non-container glass products. These “secondary” uses for recycled container glass can include tile, filtration, sand blasting, concrete pavements and parking lots.
- The recycling approach that the industry favors is any recycling program that results in contaminant-free recycled glass. This helps ensure that these materials are recycled into new glass containers. While curbside collection of glass recyclables can generate high participation and large amounts of recyclables, drop-off and commercial collection programs tend to yield higher quality recovered container glass.
I do think that if you need to consume products that are packed, please consider the type of packaging that it comes in. It may cost a little more to buy the glass jar of mustard instead of the plastic bottle, but our oceans are riddled with plastic trash that gets lost through the transportation process or even dumped carelessly. Eventually, it will get back to us and then there will have to be a whole new strategy for us to figure out how to not consume plastic from the animals that accidentally consume it first. It is a nightmare loop, but we can either take preventative measures or create ways to try to exit it.