“Only half of Americans can recycle at home as easily as they can throw something away.* Those that can recycle easily are only recycling half of what they could.**”
The average American generates 70 pounds of glass waste each year. That means that across the country, we generate approximately 11,585,000 tons of glass waste each year! The good news is that glass is 100% recyclable!
Glass can be recycled virtually endlessly with no loss in quality with approximately 80% of that recovered glass being used to create new glass. The remaining recovered material is reused in various industrial goods. Making recycled glass from recovered cullet consumes 40% less energy than using raw materials. In addition, over 1 ton of natural resources are conserved for every ton of recycled cullet including 1,300 pounds of sand, 410 pounds of soda ash, 380 pounds of limestone, and 160 pounds of feldspar. For every 6 tons of recycled glass used, 1 ton of carbon dioxide is reduced. Glass recycling generates jobs, requiring around 8-10 workers compared to just 1 worker for landfill. Glass can take up to 1 million years to decompose in a landfill!
Although many Americans have access to curb-side recycling, fewer and fewer service providers are accepting glass in mixed waste bins. This is due to contamination to other materials in the bins when glass breaks and because glass waste can be very heavy. Drop-off and dedicated glass bins tend to yield much higher quality recovered container glass. We have a great service provider for glass recycling in our own backyard! Momentum Recycling opened in 2012 in Salt Lake City with a capacity to process 2000 tons of glass per month; currently, they are processing 1200 tons of glass per month and taking 6% of the total glass waste produced in Utah.
What is acceptable in the recycling stream? Glass bottles and jars generally make up the bulk of the glass waste stream. Many other types of household glass are not acceptable, such as ceramics, windshields, Pyrex, light bulbs, fish tanks, mirrors, dishes and plates. Broken bottles and jars are acceptable.
Make sure that glass containers are empty and as clean as possible. (A great barometer test is to tip the container over and if anything drips out, clean it out a bit more.)
* 2015-16 Centralized Study on Availability of Recycling
** 2016 State of Curbside Report