What To Do With Broken Glass

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When it comes to disposing of broken glass plates or drinking glasses, things can get tricky. Do you throw them in the trash and risk hurting other people? What if the glass is not recyclable, like glass from windows, mirrors, candleholders, or light bulbs?

For smaller pieces of household glass, like cups dishes and bottles, you can go ahead and put the broken glass in the trash or recycling, but it’s better to add another bag or layer of protection to prevent the glass poking through. Larger pieces of glass like a broken window shouldn’t be recycled.

Non-recyclable glass items can be a safety hazard and might injure waste handlers if not disposed of correctly. So let’s see if you can throw glass in the trash and how you can safely dispose of broken glass without hurting yourself or others.  

Can You Throw Glass in the Trash?

Pieces of broken glass over white background

While you can recycle things like glass jars and bottles, large flat pieces of flat household glass used for windscreens, glass doors, and windows is another story and can’t be recycled normally. This is because flat glass is treated with chemicals and its melting point is different from other glass containers. 

So, you’ll have to throw things made of this larger, typically flat glass, including ceramics, drinkware, dinnerware, mirrors, and window glass, in the regular trash.

It’s better to wrap or duct tape the glass before it’s picked up to prevent breakage. For instance, you should duct tape the back and front of a mirror or cover as much of the surface as possible. If you don’t have enough tape, you make a large cross on both sides. 

Can You Throw Broken Glass in the Trash?

Things become a little different when it comes to handling broken glass. Broken shards of glass can be very sharp, and you need to ensure that the glass pieces aren’t loose in the trash can so that they don’t cause any harm to sanitation workers.

Also, ensure that you put all the pieces of broken glass in a thick and sturdy garbage bag so that glass doesn’t pierce through it. It’s also better to wear puncture-proof gloves and thick-soled, closed-toe sandals, so you don’t accidentally cut your hands or feet.

A few other tips to keep in mind are: 

  • Place broken glass like a broken vase or shattered light bulbs in a paper bag or a cardboard box like a snack bar or cereal box before you put it in the garbage bag. This lowers the chance of the broken shards of glass piercing through the garbage bag and injuring waste handlers. 
  • In case of a large piece of broken glass like a mirror, put tape over the broken part so that the tiny shards don’t injure handlers. 
  • When disposing of a window or mirror, put tape across the whole material to contain the broken glass.    
  • Keep pets and kids away from the area where the glass broke until you’re done cleaning it up.

How to Dispose of Broken Glass 

Bottle meets hammer

Disposing of broken glass is pretty straightforward. But before you start, you need to remember that small pieces of glass might be scattered across the floor, and you need to be very careful. 

Items You Need

  • A piece of cloth or towel—it should be as thick as possible, while the size will depend on how much broken glass you need to pick up
  • A cardboard box with a lid (maybe an old shoe box)
  • A hammer to break larger pieces of glass
  • Strong adhesive tape
  • A dark, prominent marker, preferably black or red, to label the box as dangerous 

Before You Start

Glass shards are very sharp; some might even be hidden between the large pieces. As a result, they might puncture the skin and injure you if you’re not careful. This is why you must wear puncture-proof gloves and closed-toe shoes before you start.

What To Do

Once you have all the items you need and have taken the necessary precautions:

  1. Pick up all the pieces of broken glass and put them into the cardboard box. Since broken shards can be very tiny, ensure you’re very thorough.
  1. Shine a flashlight on the floor where the glass broke to ensure no shards are left. Glass reflects light, so you can spot the pieces easily.
  1. If a piece of glass is too large to fit in the box, securely wrap it in a cloth or towel and use the hammer to break it into smaller pieces. 
  1. Collect all the pieces and put them into the box. If the box is too big and there’s a large gap, put a little cloth over the wrapped glass to hold it in place. 
  1. Close the lid and seal it with packing tape to make sure glass doesn’t make its way out of it.
  1. Use a prominent marker to label the box and mention that it contains broken glass.
  1. Place the sealed box in a garbage bag and put that in the trashcan. If your garbage collection day is a few days later, you can put it on a high shelf and set a reminder to put it in the trash can later. 

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