Handle bags on curbside recycling for very long and it becomes easy to guess some of the contents at each stop. Bulky light bags mean corrugated cardboard. Stuffed bags that also have that crinkly sound usually contain mostly plastic bottles. Heavy bags that clink mean glass bottles and containers. Though not at the top of the list by volume at the Keep Alliance Beautiful Recycling Center, glass is one of the best materials consumers can recycle.
Glass can be recycled almost endlessly without losing quality of the new product. KAB accepts any color of glass bottles and containers. Remove any lids or metal and rinse the containers. Mirrors, windows and lightbulbs are not taken because of the chemicals involved. We are able to crush the glass prior to shipping.
Unlike some facilities, at the recycling center we do not sort glass by color. Sorting is essential for that container to become the same type of beer bottle, for example. The Glass Packaging Institute (GPI) website explains what happens to mixed glass. Furnace-ready recycled glass is called “cullet” and mixed glass is “3 mix.” There is demand in a range of applications for the type of glass KAB provides including tile, filtration, sand blasting, concrete pavement, parking lots and landscaping filler. Bottle glass can even find itself in innovative products such as glass countertops.
GPI notes container and fiberglass industries combined buy 3.35 million tons of recycled glass a year for new containers and fiberglass products. (source: Precision Consulting, NAIMA)
Like any other recyclable material, reclaimed glass saves resources and landfill space. That glass spaghetti sauce jar at the current Alliance Landfill cell will take around a million years to break down. Recycled glass can be substituted for up to 95 percent of raw materials and uses 40 percent of the energy required compared to virgin materials alone. One ton of recycled glass actually saves more than a ton of raw materials.
Glass containers are not numbered like plastic. It is simply all glass and all recyclable with the exception of metal components like caps. These can often be separated and recycled with tin and steel cans. For the bottles themselves, labels burn off as materials are mixed and heated to 2,600 to 2,800 degrees Fahrenheit then molded into shape. If the cullet is meant to become the same type of container it may be used again soon. It takes as little as 30 days from recycling bin to reappear on the store shelf.
Manufacturing has become more efficient over the years. According to GPI glass bottles have been reduced in weight about 40 percent over the past 30 years.
Overall, KAB has seen an increase in recycling in recent years. There is always room for improvement. We would like to see more glass through curbside, at the trailers and brought to the recycling center. The Alliance Eagles Club and VFW have been great parters in glass recycling with dedicated bins for their locations.
In the United States in 2017, GPI says, 33.9 percent of all glass containers were recycled. For area residents and businesses working through KAB I hope we can make “the glass half full” and recycle at least 50 percent of our glass containers.