It’s a common misconception that since most glass containers and jars are recyclable, you can recycle broken glass as well. But the truth is that this isn’t really the case. So what should you do with broken glass? Should you just throw it away or is recycling an option?
Some broken glass is recyclable, as long as it’s handled with care. However, many recycling facilities don’t accept broken lightbulbs, mirrors, and bottles since they require special treatment. Check with your local facility before you proceed. Drinking and wine glasses often can’t be recycled.
Recycling is one of the easiest, quickest, and simplest ways of reducing your carbon footprint. But there’s no point in recycling materials that won’t be usable later on — and that includes certain types of broken glass. Let’s take a closer look at how you can determine whether to recycle broken glass.
Can You Recycle Broken Glass?
Glass comes in a wide range of forms and types, and not all can be treated (or recycled) in the same way.
For instance, glass used in things like light bulbs, mirrors, and window glass has chemicals in it, making it unsuitable for reuse in many cases. But it’s still possible to repurpose broken mirror and window glass, so make sure you do some research before chucking it into the trash.
Some industrial manufacturers and facilities accept broken glass and convert it into asphalt, fiberglass, and building materials.
Some things you can’t recycle include:
Depending on the type of lightbulb, it may need special treatment before it can be recycled.
For example, halogen, incandescent, and LED bulbs can be recycled, but not all recycling centers accept them since they need special processing.
However, since they’re not hazardous, they can also be wrapped in newspapers and disposed of in the trash.
Meanwhile, CFLs or compact fluorescent bulbs contain mercury — and must therefore be processed differently. Since mercury can pollute the environment, the bulb must be recycled appropriately. Not all recycling facilities recycle CFLs for this reason.
Plus, CFLs are considered household hazardous waste and must be sent to a household hazardous waste drop-off facility.
Drinking & Wine Glasses
Compared to container glass, drinking glasses have different melting points and chemical compositions. And if the container and drinking glass are mixed together, they can result in fracture points and abnormalities in recycled glass, rendering it unreliable and hazardous.
In case of broken drinking and wine glasses, you should wrap them up and throw them in the trash. If your glasses aren’t broken, you can just donate or repurpose them.
If you put your garbage in plastic bags, make sure you wrap non-hazardous household waste glass in paper and then put it in the garbage.
It should be wrapped so securely that the pieces don’t fall out. Use a string or tape to keep the paper in place if needed so that passers-by and handlers don’t get hurt.
And if you leave the garbage in a can, make sure the loose pieces are well packed inside the bin so that they don’t fall out.
Although most broken bottles can be recycled, many companies don’t accept them because of the damage they can cause to waste handlers who need to sort through the trash.
How to Dispose of Broken Glass
Glass shards can be very small and sharp — and they might be scattered across the floor where the glass item broke.
To make sure you don’t hurt yourself, it’s important that you work very carefully. Here’s what you need to do:
Protect Your Hands and Feet
Glass shards are super-sharp, and there might even be some small shards hidden between the large pieces that could easily pierce the skin and injure you. This is why it’s important that you protect your hands and feet before you start.
For the feet, use closed-toe shoes so that you don’t hurt your feet if you step on a glass shard. And to prevent your hands from being injured while picking up the glass, use puncture-proof gloves (on Amazon).
Collect All Broken Pieces
Now, look for a cardboard box that can hold the broken glass. Pick up all the pieces very carefully and throw them into the box. Keep in mind that glass shards can be very small, so you’ll have to look around the area where the glass broke very thoroughly.
Tip: You can shine a flashlight on the floor to find small pieces of glass. They’ll reflect the light so that you can spot them easily.
If the glass pieces are too large to fit in your cardboard box, you can further break them into smaller pieces by wrapping them in a cloth or towel and tapping them lightly using a hammer.
Seal and Label the Box
Once you’ve collected all the broken pieces of glass, use packing tape to seal up the box so that the glass pieces don’t make their way out of it.
Add a label to the box to inform others to be careful. Use a thick permanent marker to indicate that the box contains broken glass.
Put the Box in the Trash
Put the sealed box in a trash bag and place that in the garbage can so that it can be brought to the curb when it’s time for your weekly trash pickup.