Glass bottles are durable, commonplace, and highly recyclable. In fact, a glass bottle is 100% recyclable – indeed, many new bottles contain glass which was created over 20 years ago. Less energy is used in recycling a glass bottle than creating glass from raw materials, which is beneficial for the environment. Glass does not weaken overtime, and can be recycled endlessly.
The recycling process of glass is comparable to that of plastic. Glass is taken to local recycling centers from recycling bins in homes, businesses, and glass collection centers such as supermarkets. The glass is separated from the other recyclables, and sent to a specific glass processing facility.
At the new plant, glass is first separated from other contaminants, like corks, metal lids, ceramics, and plastic lids. If these other materials enter the furnace, they will interrupt and damage the melting process, or weaken the resulting product. After sorting, the glass is crushed and sent as cullet to a bottling company. It depends mostly on the color as to which company receives the cullet. Once the cullet arrives, it is mixed with raw materials to begin manufacture into glass. The mix is melted down in a furnace exceeding temperatures of 1000 degrees Fahrenheit. The glass is then molded or mechanically blown into new shapes. Depending on the desired product, the glass can be reformed into any shape or size.
A small proportion of the cullet can be recycled into aggregate for building materials. For example, roads can be built or repaired using aggregate from recycled glass. For a more visual explanation, check out this video from Devon, UK – The Smashing Story of Recycling Glass.
By Alanna Scheinerman, Class of 2013