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Glass

EPA Links and Publications

Glass Publications

Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines (CPG) site provides recycled-content recommendations for various glass products.

Municipal Solid Waste in the United States: Facts and Figures describes glass and other commodities in terms of the national MSW stream.

More Glass Information

The Glass Packaging Institute (GPI) Exit EPA, represents the glass container industry in Washington, DC, and in state legislatures across the country.

The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) Exit EPA is a trade association representing the scrap processing and recycling industry. ISRI represents 1,400 companies that process, broker, and industrially consume scrap commodities, including glass.

The Clean Washington Center (CWC) Exit EPA, in Washington state, works to develop markets for recycled materials, including glass.

Glass bottles

For centuries, glass has served as a universal packaging container, holding commodities like wine and olive oil. Today, manufacturers use glass to hold everything from soda to perfume. The glass in many items, can be recycled over and over while retaining its strength.

Just the Facts

Recycling Glass

Glass, especially glass food and beverage containers, can be recycled over and over again. In fact, 90 percent of recycled glass is used to make new containers. Recycled glass can also be used in kitchen tiles, counter tops, and wall insulation. Glass recycling has grown considerably in recent years through increased collection through curbside recycling programs and glass manufacturers' increased demand for recycled glass.

Most glass manufacturers rely on a steady supply of recycled crushed glass, known as “cullet,” to supplement raw materials. To make glass, manufacturers mix sand, soda ash, limestone, and cullet; heat the mixture to a temperature of 2,600 to 2,800 degrees F; and mold it into the desired shape.

Using cullet saves money and helps the environment, because:

Glass collected at the curbside is usually commingled, meaning that different colors and types of glass are collected together. This glass might then be sorted by color, or other characteristics, at a materials recovery facility. Some municipal and commercial recycling programs require participants to separate clear, brown, and green glass. Although all glass is made of silica and soda, the type and quantity vary slightly with different types of glass. Different melting points and chemical incompatibility make it important to sort glass by color. Glass separated by color yields glass cullet of higher economic value.

Markets for Recovered Glass

Glass container manufacturers need a steady supply of quality cullet to make glass containers. Ninety percent of recycled glass is used to make new containers, and the demand for quality cullet is greater than the supply. High-quality cullet is free of contaminants that would limit its usefulness in manufacturing.

High-quality cullet can be used for abrasives, aggregate substitute, bead manufacturing, decorative applications, fiberglass, frictionators (match striker surfaces), and fluxes in metal foundry work. Lower-quality cullet is increasingly used in secondary applications, such as in the manufacture of fiberglass insulation, roadbed aggregate, driving safety reflective beads, and decorative tile.

Source Reduction

Source reduction is the process of reducing the amount or toxicity of waste that is generated. Money and resources saved by reducing the weight of glass containers help make glass more cost effective for glass container manufacturers, who face competition from aluminum and plastic container manufacturers. Using advances in design and manufacturing technology, the glass container industry continues to reduce the weight of glass containers.

 

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