What is glass recycling?

Glass has the potential to be an incredibly sustainable material. However, we’re missing out on valuable opportunities to do our bit for the planet – and save costs – by not taking glass recycling seriously enough.

The major benefit of glass is that it is 100% recyclable and has an endless shelf life, meaning it can be recycled again and again. When we recycle glass, it reduces the amount of waste going to fester for thousands of years in landfill where it imposes a lasting burden on the planet. However, it also cuts down on the use of non-renewable raw materials to produce new products which lowers the carbon emissions which would be released during manufacture and saves energy.

Once you’ve learned how to recycle glass correctly, it isn’t difficult or time-consuming to make glass recycling part of your everyday routine within the workplace. Meanwhile, your business will soon reap the rewards through reduced glass disposal costs while becoming more sustainable and growing its reputation of caring for the environment. As glass recycling is simple to do, cuts costs and is the right thing for the environment, there’s no reason why we all shouldn’t be embracing it.

An effective recycling system is relatively simple, involving segregation by using separate bins or skips which can be used for glass disposal of different colours and designated glass collection. If you’re short on space, glass crushing machines can be a game changer in supporting your glass recycling efforts and are especially useful for bottle recycling in the hospitality sector.

Why is glass so recyclable?

Glass is so recyclable because it is not contaminated with any other materials or substances. As a clean material, an entire glass jar or bottle can be melted down and recycled into a new product, making it 100% recyclable. Even when it is recycled, it doesn’t lose any quality and purity so can be recycled endlessly.

How much glass is recycled?

When it comes to packaging waste and recycling, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) reports the UK has a glass recycling rate of 73.6%. While this may initially sound high, this still means that more than 26% of glass packaging is still not being recycled and is simply being wasted, losing a precious resource.

To demonstrate this further, we only have to look at the amount of recycled glass which is used to make new glass, known as the closed-loop recycling rate. For the UK, this is 43%, as reported by Eunomia in partnership with Zero Waste Europe. And the fact that recycled glass only makes up 38% of new glass packaging shows how much demand there still is for new glass manufacture.

Unfortunately, if glass isn’t recycled, it has a long and significant impact on the planet. Estimates for how long glass takes to decompose in landfill range from 4,000 years to a mind-blowing one million years. Given how glass is so easily and cleanly recycled, these recycling figures can – and should – be improved fast.

How is glass recycled?

  • Businesses segregate waste glass and it is stored in bottle banks, bins or skips ready for collection. Glass crushers can be used to conveniently compact glass directly into a wheeled bin.
  • Waste glass is collected and transported to a specialist glass recycling plant.
  • Glass is sorted by colour, if required.
  • Glass is cleaned and crushed (if not already done so) with the end product called ‘cullet’. Any contaminants, such as paper or metal, are removed.
  • At this stage, raw materials can be introduced to enhance the glass. This includes iron or cobalt which can colour the glass as well as aluminium and boron which can increase durability and heat resistance.
  • The cullet (and any additives) is melted in a furnace.
  • Molten glass is then used to create new products. It can be moulded or blown into new bottles or jars, used in energy-efficient glass wool insulation for homes or for water filtration media.

Benefits of glass recycling

Put simply, glass recycling makes sense both from an environmental and financial perspective. Some of the major benefits of glass recycling are:

  • It makes life easier and reduces costs – Any glass sent via normal commercial waste collection to landfill often increases the cost of your business’ waste disposal. As glass is relatively heavy and bulky, it can be subject to higher landfill tax as this is calculated by weight. With landfill taxcurrently standing at nearly £100 per tonne, recycling glass will save on these disposal costs. What’s more, using a small glass crusher machine on site will help to reduce space required for glass bottle waste and make it easier and cheaper for a glass recycling company to collect.
  • It saves resources and protects our planet – Your business’ green credentials can be boosted by employing a simple glass recycling strategy. Recycled glass takes a fraction of the energy and resources as virgin glass, while producing less carbon and half as much water pollution. Glass recycling also diverts this waste stream from landfill where it would otherwise spend thousands of years breaking down.
  • It boosts your sustainability credentials – Letting customers and suppliers know about your glass recycling by promoting your green policies is great PR. Many businesses are more likely to engage a socially responsible supplier and it could mean the difference between winning or losing a contract. Plus, with a growing consumer movement towards ethical businesses, it could also contribute to you attracting new customers too.
  • It can make you money – Some glass recycling companies will pay for quality waste glass, allowing you to trade your glass for cash. Proper segregation can help. And even if it’s determined that your glass isn’t valuable, recycling glass costs less than disposing via landfill so either way, you’re better off!
  • It’s made even easier thanks to glass crushing equipment – A small investment in a glass crusher can pay dividends in making glass recycling easier and saving you space in storing what is otherwise bulky waste. Installing the phs Wastekit BB06 Glass Crusher can help you make the most of your glass bottle waste. Simply wheel a standard 120L or 150L bin into position within the crusher and feed up to 680 bottles in 10 minutes (that’s as much as 2 tons per hour) into the glass crushing equipment to obtain cullet that can be wheeled away for collection by a glass recycling company. To make it safer and cleaner, an extraction system ensures the removal of fine glass particles from the air while low noise and a small footprint makes the glass crusher suitable for use in any environment.

Simplycontact phs Wastekit to discover how easy it is to introduce the benefits of glass recycling to your business.

Do you have a question?