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Go Green & Recycle Glass

Most of the inorganic waste in our homes can be recycled which is good news for the environment and all of us in return. The worrying trends of global warming, depleted ozone levels and air pollution are making the scenes of the After Earth movie appear more and more realistic. Recycling glass is pretty easy as it can be recycled an infinite number of times without it losing its quality, purity or strength. It is one of the most widely recycled materials with some countries like Belgium, Finland and Switzerland recycling over 90% of their glass and the UK recycling more than 50% of their container glass. In the US 5% of the garbage is made up of glass.



Recycling is not a new concept but rather one that has been around since the BC era. Archeological evidence uncovered over time shows that in the imperial Byzantine times, glass was recycled in the Sagalassos, the ancient city that is present day Turkey. Recycling of other materials like bronze coins and metals and using them to create other items like statues or weapons was a common practice in those periods. Even before the industrial revolution which made recycling a trend, recycling was still being practiced because it made economical sense to recycle some materials instead of using virgin material. Recyclable materials like aluminum and glass were used until they became too worn to be of any further use. In Britain, bricks were made using dust and ash as their base materials and scrap bronze as well as other metals in Europe were melted down and recycled in a perpetual cycle.

After the establishment of the environmental movement which was established in the 1960s, recycling became popular resulting in the establishment of drop-off recycling centers. A major milestone in the journey of recycling was covered when a universal symbol for recycling was introduced. The symbol was a Mobius strip which was designed in the later half of the 1960s by Gary Anderson. This was after a recycled-container company which was based in Chicago sponsored an art contest that was aimed at raising environmental awareness. The triangle has been used as a representation of the hierarchy of recycling that encourages people to reduce, reuse and recycle. The interest in recycling was also increased because of the rising energy costs that were being witnessed in the 1970s.

A look at more recent history in recycling glass shows that the first glass bottles to be collected and recycled took place in France in 1974. After this initiative by the community of glassmakers, the advent of recycling glass was officially kicked off and the first containers were then installed. Almost a decade later 33% of glass bottles underwent recycling in continental Europe and this rate grew up to 54% by 1994. In 2003 60% of glass bottles are recycled in Europe which was the initial objective for states in the European Union. Today the rate of recycling has superseded the objective with more than 60% of glass bottles being recycled all over Europe and the surrounding areas.

The recycling of glass is very effective because glass jars and bottles are 100% recyclable. These container glasses are collected as part of the curbside garbage collection or in bottle banks. Both require consumers to only place food or drink glass containers in the collection bag or bin and insist that no window glass, Pyrex, ceramic, glass cups or glass tumblers or other non-food or drink glass materials be placed in the bins. Consumers are also advised to remove any non-glass items such as lids or wires from the glass and also to rinse out the containers to remove food or drink. The glass containers are then taken to the recycling venues and sorted out usually by color after which they are crushed in conveyors, mixed with raw materials to enhance the properties of the glass, meted in a furnace and then molded into new bottles. The non-food glass materials that are not recycled in this way can be used in secondary markets such as insulation products, brick manufacture, production of ceramic sanitary ware, Astroturf and other related applications such as top dressing ad root zone, golf bunker sand, abrasive, aggregate, water filtration media and recycled glass countertops.

Recycling glass effectively keeps the earth safe as studies have shown that recycling glass uses up to 40% less energy than actually creating new glass from lime, silica sand and soda ash and recycled glass also substitutes almost 95% of raw materials. Additionally, recycled glass creates less air pollution by about 20 percent and less water pollution by about 50 percent. It has also been shown that when glass is recycled natural resources which add up to more than a ton are saved. The amount of carbon dioxide emissions is reduced by more than a ton with every six tons used in manufacturing glass by making use of recycled glass. Another interesting fact about recycling glass is that every two bottles that are recycled saves enough energy that it could boil enough water for making five cups of tea.

Future Innovations

With the establishment of companies whose specialty is recycling glass, the practice is bound to increase in households. In a few years if the trends are anything to go by, recycled glass will also be used as building materials and the recycling rates for countries around the world will surpass the objectives put in place by the international organizations such as European Union. With the benefits that manufacturers are seeing by recycling glass such as longer life on equipment like furnaces, reduced energy costs, lower emissions and reduced consumption of the raw materials used in manufacture which means lower operating costs, recycling glass may soon become a big industry. Signs have already been seen because the recycling of 1,000 tons creates about 8 jobs. With the increase in the amount of recycled glass, there are bound to be more jobs created in the future. Since glass is not biodegradable, recycling glass lends a much needed hand to mother earth to help in keeping her safe and providing for us for generations to come.