Glass is one of the most complicated materials commonly accepted in curbside recycling programs.
It’s heavier than other packaging materials (e.g., aluminum cans, plastic bottles), it has a low commodity value, and it can easily break during transport and injure solid waste staff.
If you live in a community that’s like most, only “container glass” can go in your bin. Container glass includes items like beer and wine bottles or jam and pickle jars. This type of glass is food grade, and it cannot be mixed or recycled with other types of glass.
The availability of glass recycling in your community depends greatly on what businesses are nearby to accept the materials. Otherwise, the cost (transportation, fuel, processing, etc.) outweighs the benefit of recycling the glass altogether.
“It’s a community by community thing,” says Joe Cattaneo, president of the Glass Packaging Institute, “and if glass isn’t collected, it’s not collected because they don’t have a glass or fiberglass company in the area that it can be delivered to cost-effectively.”
Separating out the right types of glass (which typically happens through optical sorting) from other materials that may be in the recycling bin can also be a challenge. “Glass gets mixed up with fiber, with plastic,” Cattaneo says, making separation tricky.
Here’s your cheat sheet to making sure you get your glass recycling just right:
DO verify that your local community accepts glass at the curb. Cities like Houston, El Paso, Nashville and Kansas City (as of 2017) will only accept glass if it’s dropped off at the recycling center.
DON’T add types of glass that are not specifically listed in your guidelines. Remember the pizza box story? Contamination is a big issue when it comes to making recycling viable.
DO remove caps from glass bottles. The cap can probably be included with other metals, but it should be separated from the glass.
DON’T recycle wine corks at the curb. Take them to your local BevMo, or find another ReCork drop-off.
DO rinse glass bottles and jars. It will keep them free of insects.
DON’T worry about removing solids inside the bottle, like lime wedges or cork remains. These materials will be burned off during the recycling process.
DO use buy-back centers if you’re recycling beer bottles in one of the 10 bottle deposit states.
DON’T transport bottles across state lines to redeem a deposit you didn’t pay. It’s illegal.
DO keep glass bottles and jars unbroken in your bin.
This article was originally published by Jennifer Giacoppo on Feb. 7, 2011. It was updated by Trey Granger on Oct. 13, 2017. Feature image courtesy of Shutterstock.