Saturdays with Shavara
The Ever-Changing Glass Recycling Industry
Welcome back to another glorious Saturday with Shavara and thanks for yet again taking time out of your day to read one of my post! Today I feel utterly inspired to discuss the topic of a material that’s often being discussed and frankly may very well continue to be discussed long after this post bears any relevance, (that’s just how long this particular material has been around). If you guessed glass or if the title gave me away (ha ha) then you are correct! You might be wondering how it’s even a question of do we or don’t we recycle glass… I mean glass is after all 100% recyclable and can be recycled endlessly without loss in quality or purity. The question many find themselves asking when facilities refuse to accept glass as an acceptable recyclable material is; what downside could exist with a material having the legit “gold” standard of recycling characteristics? Americans dispose of 10 million metric tons of glass annually most of it shockingly making its way to the landfill over recycling facilities, with only about 33% of our glass is actually recycled.
Cullet, which is the official name for domestic glass is a mix of crushed bottles and jars is usually collected from recycling facilities along with sand, limestone, and other raw materials to produce the molten glass needed to manufacture new bottles and jars. Simply put the use of recycled glass is almost always used to create new glass because of the many environmental benefits, there are however varying degrees of how much glass is available and accessible because of factors that don’t necessarily have anything to do with availability or benefits to using recycled glass. Glass is heavy and that weight makes it more expensive to transport with the added bonus that it breaks super easy making it quite cumbersome to maneuver from place to place in large quantities. There is also the issue of the transportation distance that glass must take to facilities that actually take the glass to create cullet, which often causes CO2 emissions to rise offsetting much of the what benefits would have been seen in the goal of recycling glass in the first place.
Many of the curbside programs across our nation have made the tough choice to forfeit the acceptance of glass because of the issues I mentioned above, and that’s not to say there is still not a need for glass or that we as a society have slowed down on the amount of glass that we’re using. The hard truth is this; there is currently little to no monetary gain for haulers to collect glass, there was a time when haulers would get paid to recycle and now it’s more on trend that haulers are paying to rid themselves of recycling and glass is one material that for some has become more trouble than “deemed worth.” Even amongst the environmentalist community there are debates about whether or not glass is better off left out of curbside programs held back for repurposing and “beyond the bin programs” because of the long life cycle of glass and the fact that glass is one of the few materials that has a rate of almost 0% of having any sort of chemical interaction with anything places inside of it. Glass makes for an excellent material for holding products that you wish to maintain a particular taste or scent without the concern of the leeching from the container that it’s being held in. Glass is also great for being able to quickly identify what item you are looking for without having to rummage through it. The one place we most definitely do not want glass ending up is in the landfill, where it takes a lengthy million plus years to decompose.
If you are lucky enough to still have glass accepted in your curbside program, such as Oklahoma City DO utilize it and make sure you recycle clean glass, leaving out windows, mirrors and Pyrex glass which is treated differently and is not the standard glass that makes up cullet. Cities no longer taking glass may still be in luck with many organizations like Oklahoma’s own Fertile Ground is stepping up to offer residential and commercial glass recycling for a fee for those that don’t have it offered curbside, but still want to recycle their glass. There is also the Glass Recycling Coalition that offers tons of resources on ways to properly dispose of, repurpose and recycle glass along with updated information on how the glass industry/market continues to change. There are so many resources to be discovered, and applied to make us all the best sustainable stewards we can be starting in our own households! As always folks Reduce, Reuse, Recycle often and responsibly.
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