Conservation Corner - Glass recycling 101

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Promoting Energy Awareness, Conservation and Sustainability

By The Staff

Glass Recycling 101

In Cedar Key all colors of glass can be recycled. Drain excess contents or rinse soiled glass jars or bottles with used dishwater (a water conservation step) to remove gross food residue. Remove and discard lids, caps or metal rings. There is no need to remove labels. Glass does not have to be separated from metals, plastic or paper recyclables when placed in the trailer. Light bulbs, glass cookware and window panes cannot be recycled as they contain ceramics.

What happens to collected glass when it leaves Cedar Key in the trailer?

Glass is sorted by color at the Levy County Recycling Center. It is necessary to separate by color as coloring agents are added during the original manufacturing and as this color cannot be removed, brown bottles can only make brown bottles, green bottles can only make green bottles, etc.

The sorted glass is transported to a processing plant where it is broken down into smaller pieces called cullet. The cullet is further crushed, sorted, cleaned and then mixed with the raw materials sand, soda ash and limestone. This final mixed or “batched” material is then heated to a temperature of 2150-2200 degrees Fahrenheit and molded into the desired shape.

The cost savings of recycling glass is in the decreased amount of raw materials and energy needed and the extended life of plant equipment such as furnaces. High temperatures of 2600 to 2800 degrees Fahrenheit are needed to melt and combine raw materials when glass is made from scratch. Since cullet melts at a lower temperature, the more cullet added to a batch of raw materials, the less energy is needed to melt it.

So after taking the last sip of your favorite bottled beverage, recycle the bottle to not only reduce energy use but also to conserve raw materials and lower landfill usage, thereby preserving our natural landscapes.

Glass Recycling Facts:

• ONLY 10-12 percent glass used in the US is recycled, so, there is definitely room for improvement!

• Approximately 28 billion bottles and jars are thrown into our declining landfill space every year

• Recycling glass is not only energy efficient but also reduces related air pollution by 20 percent and water pollution by 50 percent

• One ton of recycled glass is equal to 1300 pounds of sand, 410 pounds of soda ash and 380 pounds of limestone saved

• Glass can be recycled indefinitely and not lose its quality

• Glass can go from the recycling center to the supermarket shelf in 30 days

• Glass recycling is a closed loop system, creating no added waste or by-products

• Low quality cullet may be used as insulation, road aggregate or decorative tiles

• The U.S. is home to over 49 glass manufacturing plants and 65 cullet processing plants

• Energy saved by recycling one glass bottle is enough to light a 100-watt bulb for 4 hours

Sources: www.reachoutmichigan.org, www.earth911.com, www.wikipedia.com, www.gpi.org