Posted on Jan 7, 2013 in Help & services, Home & Living, Local resources
After I toss my empties into the recycling bin and haul it to the curb, where do my bottles and jars go, and what happens to them?
Glass is one of the few materials in the world that is perpetually recyclable. The same glass can be broken down and reused over and over again, a million times over. Much of the glass in your favorite bottle of beer has been in tens, if not hundreds of bottles of beer before — especially thanks to states that offer deposit programs. So what does happen to glass when it is recycled?
The recycling process for glass is relatively simple. Depending on your local recycling program, either you sort the glass by color before it gets to the facility, or it is sorted upon arrival. This is due to the fact that colored glass is created by adding ingredients to the molten mixture when the bottles are formed and cannot feasibly be removed during the recycling process, and thus would contaminate other colors of glass. Green bottles go on to make more green bottles.
Next, the sorted batches go through a mechanical crushing system that breaks the glass into tiny pieces called cullet. From there, the cullet passes through a series of magnets, screens and vacuums to remove any remaining metal, plastic, bits of labels, etc. Once it has been filtered, the cullet can then be sold to factories, which will melt it down along with silica sand, soda ash, and limestone — the basic components of glass — which will be made into new glass.
It’s important to note that in most cases, recyclers cannot accept glass from windows, ceramics, light bulbs, ovenware, or drinking glasses as these types of glass may damage the furnace during the recycling process and are generally chemically incompatible with the glass typically used in jars and bottles. Obviously, this varies by area and the recycler, so check with your local agencies if you’re not sure what they do or do not accept.
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