There’s Glass and Then There’s…The Other Kind of Glass


by WFAA Project Green

Posted on February 5, 2010 at 3:49 PM

Updated Friday, Feb 5 at 3:49 PM

Libuse Binder / Earth 911

Most everyone knows what to do with their glass bottles and jars (known as container glass), and most every local recycling facility has the resources to process these materials. Non-container glass (such as window panes, windshields, and light bulbs), which is both more rare and more problematic to recycle, is a different matter. For most people the question of what to do with these types of glass is difficult to answer.

According to the EPA, less than 10 percent of the nearly 3 million tons of glass that is recycled annually comes from non-container materials. Because of the high likelihood of contaminants and the varied composition of non-container glass, it is difficult to melt down and reuse as a safe and reliable container material. Since it cannot be mixed with container glass, it is most likely to end up as something other than glass. Increasingly, low or mixed quality glass is used as road aggregate or mixed into asphalt to add strength and visibility. While beneficial to road paving and construction industries, those materials are not likely to be reused more than once, so the benefits of this process are limited.

So What’s A Committed Recycler To Do?

Due to the variety of glass types and composition of non-container glass, it is much more difficult to produce the volume necessary to make recycling worthwhile at collection facilities (compare the number of old windows collected to the number of bottles, for example). As a result, your local waste management facility may not accept such items. Use Earth911 to find a recycling location near you that will recycle them.

Also, the local waste management facility will sometimes have a list of facilities that do accept these materials. For example, Seattle’s Solid Waste Division provides lists of businesses that collect everything from fluorescent light bulbs and non-container glass to tires, paint and Christmas trees.

Because Compact Fluorescent Bulbs Are Made With Glass Too…

Ikea and Home Depot are some of the first chains to begin a collection program for compact fluorescent light bulbs, which contain mercury and should not be put in recycling or curbside trash. Other lighting stores are also beginning to accept these bulbs as well. Additionally, a few states have begun to pass legislation requiring producers of glass-containing materials such as televisions and computer displays to provide for their recycling at the end of the consumer cycle. This is an important step, because companies are more likely to make their products easy to recycle if they are responsible for the costs involved.

Ask Your Glass Producers For Help

As of today, though, consumers will have to take the initiative to ensure that these hard to recycle products find their way back into the market. Ask those who sell or install glass products how they dispose of old glass. Because they deal in greater volumes of material, commercial recycling is more commonplace than individual recycling. The more pressure consumers put on businesses the more likely they are to seek out such programs for themselves.


“Common Wastes and Materials: Glass.” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 2008.

Feilhauer Matthias. ”How Do You Make Electronics Easier to Recycle?”  Christian Science Monitor Online. 2007.

“Glass Recycling Information Sheet.” Waste Online. 2008.                         

“What Do I Do With? Materials List.” King County Solid Waste Division. 2008.      

Libuse Binder is a freelance writer

Earth 911

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