Glass is a material made out of sand, soda ash and limestone and it is 100% recyclable. Circular economy processes help in capturing the lost value from the recycling glass. This makes up more favourable circumstances for reusing and saving raw glass materials and eliminating carbon emissions. Glass is also a vital material for circular economy policies as it can be recycled again and again without losing its elemental properties.
In the EU, it is estimated that 73% of post-consumer glass packaging is collected and recycled. The types of glass that can be recycled, inert alia, are bottles, jars, cosmetic and perfume containers, pharmaceutical packages and vials. In order to properly recycle those, it is necessary to separate the lids and corks of the jars and have them thoroughly cleaned up. The process of recycling glass is as follows: it is collected and sent to recycling facilities where it is crushed and remelted in oversized furnaces to turn into a cullet and then back into useful glass again.
Some types of glass cannot be recycled because they will not melt properly or are coated with special substances. For these, households can resort to reusing their glass containers, in order to reduce glass waste in landfills. Reuse of glass containers can be easily achievable as glass is a long-lasting material that does not gather toxics and has an almost zero amount of chemical interaction. Containers such as glass jars and bottles can be reused through crafts, decorations, storage, planters, or even drinking glasses, after a sanitization process.
So far in Europe, most building end-of-life glass ends up on landfills or is crushed and aggregated to the construction of roads. However, if building glass were adequately sorted from other building debris and collected separately it could be easily recycled into other glass products.
Circular Economy for Glass process elements:
- Mining materials
- Glass manufacturing
- Glazing units
- Reuse <- Use
- Collection -> Recycling/ Refurbish/ Remanufacture
- Energy recovery
Advantages and challenges
- A big number of raw materials can be replaced by cullet (the material resulting from glass recycling) and can be used in manufacture, thus, conserving natural resources.
- Cullet melts at lower temperatures than raw materials used for glass making, thus saving energy and reducing energy costs.
- CO2 emissions, air and water pollution are reduced.
- Through reuse of containers, materials sent to the landfills as waste are lessened.
- Glass waste management reserves sustainability because it is 100% recyclable and can be recycled endlessly without losing quality or purity.
- Not all types of glass can be recycled. However, there are many ways to reuse glass containers in households, from refilling them to turning them into decorations.
- High cost in the recycling glass process.
- Difficulty in sorting broken glass or sorting through the various colours and types of glass.
- How-to-guide_Building-glass-into-CE.pdf (ukgbc.org)
- What glass can you recycle? – Friends of Glass
- Advantages and Disadvantages of Glass Recycling (norcalcompactors.net)
- VDMA: Recycling Glass – Circular Economy with Potential (glassmachine.com)
- Sustainable Glass – Reuse and Recycle – Techni-Glass (techni-glassinc.com)