A Guide To Recycling Glass

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Glass is a great option to recycle for both consumers and manufacturers. The recycling process isn’t just environment-friendly; glass jars and bottles are infinitely recyclable compared to plastic. Plus, glass can withstand endless crush and melt cycles without losing purity or quality.

Recycling glass has numerous benefits, but not all glass can be recycled. For instance, you shouldn’t recycle broken glass, frosted glass, or larger glass items like broken window glass panes. To ease the burden on recycling, consider repurposing glass bottles and containers when possible.

So can all glass be recycled, or are there some kinds of glass or certain glass products that you can’t recycle at all? What is the best way to recycle it? Can you repurpose it before you recycle it? Do you need to treat the glass before you can recycle it? Let’s see the answers to all these questions. 

Can All Glass Be Recycled?

Glass bottles inside a glass recycling

Glass is completely recyclable—you can recycle it endlessly, and the quality won’t degrade. However, for glass to be recycled, it must be separated from other recyclable materials to prevent contamination. 

The main reason why glass is so recyclable is that it’s made using domestic materials like cullet, sand, soda ash, and limestone. Cullet is crushed glass that’s widely used and can be melted.

Recycling glass has numerous benefits. It helps conserve resources and create new industrial or consumer items. For instance, you can make jars, bottles, countertops, faux turf, and insulation from recycled glass. 

Plus, recycling glass is quite profitable in the long run and helps cut down the cost of manufacturing glass containers. It also reduces the requirement for raw materials since a kilogram of cullet replaces around 1.2 kilograms of raw materials. 

And while plastic has seven confusing symbols, glass only has 3: GL-72 (brown glass), GL-71 (green glass), and GL-70 (clear glass). Moreover, it’s easy to distinguish between these; all three are entirely recyclable.

What Kind of Glass Can You Recycle Together?

You can’t recycle all kinds of glass together, which means you can’t mix certain types of glass with one another. For example, glasses like Pyrex, ovenware, crystal, and windows have a different manufacturing process than glass bottles and containers. 

So if you recycle them together, it can lead to problems in production and, ultimately, defective glass items.

What is the Best Way to Recycle Glass? 

Recycling glass has become a little trickier as recyclers have started to refuse such jobs. In times like these, it’s better to reuse glass, primarily since it uses fewer resources than recycling glass. If you’re looking for inspiration, here are some ways you can reuse glass:

Handwash Dispenser

Using a glass bottle or jar as a soap dispenser is very easy. And you can use any glass bottle lying around. All you need to do is get a liquid pump, place it on top of the glass bottle, and pour your favorite soap into it.

And if you have too many bottles, you can paint one and gift them to someone. 

Bird Feeder

Another great way to use old bottles, especially if they have an exciting shape, is to make a bird feeder. Wine bottles are a perfect choice for this, especially if they have an attractive color or an eye-catching label that can draw in the birds.

When making a bird feeder using a glass bottle, make sure that you make it tall enough so that the bottle can fit but still leave a few walls. Then use a wire rope to attach the bottle and hold it in place. Finally, secure it to the feeder’s inner walls using screws and washers.

Carve out an L hook at the feeder base’s back and put the bottle in such that its lips rest on the base. Now all that’s left to do is set a funnel inside the bottle and invert it to allow the seed to come out slowly.

A glass bottle bird feeder is another great gift idea.

Glass Jars for Storage

Just like bottles, you can also reuse jars made of glass. So instead of throwing them out once they’re empty, you can clean them up and fill them with something else. 

So you can use your glass jars to store dried herbs, especially since they need a dry, breathable space. You can also put spices in them instead of buying spice jars. You can also store coconut flour, honey, nuts, and other similar items. 

Which Glass Products are Not Recyclable?

Contrary to popular belief, you can’t recycle all kinds of glass and all-glass products. Some things you can’t recycle include:

Frosted Glass

It’s impossible to recycle frosted glass since it’s treated with chemicals that contaminate the recycling stream.

Ceramics and Pyrex

Like frosted glass, ceramics and Pyrex are treated with chemicals to withstand high heat. So even though you can’t recycle them, you can still reuse or donate them.

Broken Glass

Broken glass can’t be recycled since it can harm sanitization workers while sorting. To prevent injury to these workers, make sure you put all the pieces of broken glass in a cardboard box with an adequate label before throwing it in the trash.


Since mirrors have a higher melting point, you can’t recycle them. However, if your mirror is whole, you can donate it, and if it’s broken, simply box it up and seal it before throwing it in the bin.

Window Glass

You can’t recycle window glass since it has different chemical properties and a different melting point than other recyclable containers and bottles. 

Drinking Glasses

Like window glass and oven-proof dishes, drinking glasses are also treated with chemicals that make them unsuitable for recycling.

Light Bulbs

Different kinds of light bulbs, like incandescent, halogen, CFL, and LEDs, are considered hazardous. While they can’t be recycled, you can drop them at your local resource recovery center. 

Fluorescent and LED bulbs contain arsenic and lead, so avoid touching them with your bare hands if they’re broken. Meanwhile, halogen bulbs give off mercury vapor, so you can’t recycle them or dispose of them in the regular trash.

Does Glass Need to Be Cleaned Before Being Recycled?

Recycled glass containers close-up in a meadow

Glass must be cleaned before it can be recycled, and there’s a reason for that. Most communities use single-stream or commingled recycling, where all the recyclable materials are put in a single bin and then a single truck instead of being separated. 

Of course, the recyclables are separated at the facility, but if they aren’t cleaned or rinsed before they’re thrown in the trash, they will intermingle during transport and create a mess.

Plus, semi-viscous materials like mayonnaise and peanut butter lingering in the recyclables can cause problems with the recycling machinery. So if something sticky makes its way into one of the many moving parts of the machine, it could cause the machine to shut down.

Even if you don’t use single-stream recycling and separate the bottles before throwing them away, the lingering liquid or food chunks can still contaminate the batch. So it’s better to wash everything before recycling. 

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