A Cool Use for Recycled Glass

Some outdoor areas are enjoying a little extra sparkle — with assistance from old beer bottles and other recyclables used as landscape glass. Bits of repurposed glass, in jewel-like nuggets, provide a decorative accent at the base of hedges, potted greens, and other types of landscaping.

The repurposed glass is formed by grinding various types of recycled glass. Sometimes referred to as “glass mulch,” the pebbles are tumbled to round off sharp edges. They are sold as “glass pebbles” at some landscape shops around the nation, and via online retailers. In Austin, Texas, the solid waste department gives away free repurposed glass. Depending on the supplier, glass pebbles are available in an assortment of hues.

ASG Glass in Utah produces landscape glass in a wide variety of individual colors and blends. Some are the natural color of the bottle or window being recycled, others feature added pigment, according to ASG Glass President Berkeley Booth.

Not Just for Your Backyard

The array of available colors allows gardeners to create beautiful customized designs. For example, a football team ordered a truckload of green and white glass to place a sparkling team logo on the ground near its stadium.

Blue hues featuring soft sea tones and clear pieces can be used to lay out a faux stream or pond to highlight a landscape. Darla Senter shares glass landscape ideas on her Pinterest page, where you’ll find dozens of ideas.

Darla Senter created this pump and stream in her garden using repurposed glass.

The creative possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

Cost and Benefit

The price of the ASG Glass products depends on the color and quantity. Twenty-five-pound bags are between $40 and $90. You’ll need about seven pounds of glass per square foot. Earth911 researched 16 different glass types and the average cost for a 25-pound bag is $76.

Online supplier EnvrioGLAS, in Plano, Texas, touts another environmental benefit of the recycled product. “Glass mulch does not absorb water like wood mulch, so the water goes where it is intended — into the plants — and even less water is used.” Most of its products are sold in 50-pound bags for around $35.


An Artistic Touch

Charlie Nardozzi, a nationally recognized gardening writer, said he regards glass pebble as primarily a decorative feature. Unlike organic mulch, glass doesn’t break down and fertilize the soil. He said he’s not sure if it offers other mulch functions, such as keeping the soil cool and moist. It does, however, offer an interesting aesthetic value.

“It’s really kind of cool,’’ he said. “It’s really more of an artistic expression.”

For those who want to express their artistic personality through glass mulch for free, the city of Austin gives away crushed glass at its landfill. Of course, the palette is a bit more limited. The city of Austin’s decorative glass is a blend of the containers they collect — clear, brown and green.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on February 9, 2009. The article, including the glass pricing, was updated in August 2018.

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  1. I really wish there was a place to recycle glass in my Alpena MI community! I recycle everything I can, but they don’t take glass.
    Our recycler tells me that they make glass-phalt for paving but he doesn’t have a contract for it. His facility is limited for space so he can’t store enough at his site to make it desirable for a large company to accept his/our glass.
    I like the idea of using glass decoratively, but couldn’t the glass also be melted down and re used for new glass bottles too? Who is doing that & how can I get my recycle center in contact with them.
    Also why doesn’t the government reimburse or help make it feasible for glass to be recycled?

  2. I have a post about the recycled glass mulch available in Austin on my gardening blog. I love this stuff! I have made two pathways with it through my garden, and I plan to get more this year. It’s a great way to use the recycled glass from the city, and it always gets comments from garden visitors.

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  4. Robin in Austin, are you able to walk on the recylce glass does it have sharp edges?

  5. hello from valdosta my name is alex papa im a college student here and i want to save my daughter’s water. i have a chance to be funded to start a nontraditional recycling business. part of my business plan is to clean up the waters here in georgia. im looking for PEOPLE to talk to. im tired of reading information on the net. if anyone knows an expert in the feild of recyling i can talk to please help. please!!! my number is 2292695965 email alex_papa39@yahoo.com

  6. What is the process for recycling glass bottles? I have been saving green & blue bottles for years thinking that I could find a way to crush them and smooth the edges to use in my garden for decoration. How is the glass treated so that edges are smooth?

  7. There is an excellent crusher, made by Andela, that crushes the glass so well that when you squeeze the crushed glass in your hand (by making a fist), you will not get cut. Generally, however, the cost of a “real” crusher is too high for an individual, but not for a larger community. Talk to your Dept of Public Works or Recycling Coordinator about accepting glass and crushing it for decorative purposes. A municipality could probably accept it for recycling and then sell it to landscapers if they kept the colors separate.

    Also, I have high praise for EnviroGlas….they have beautiful products and wish they would start a plant up here in New England!

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  9. does anyone know how to contact the # in Austin about recycled glass? thanks for any info…

  10. Looking for more information on Austin’s recycled glass program. I am looking into using this type of material for my garden path.

  11. This is for Caroline.
    There is a place in Michigan that sells the glass. It is called Grand River Recycled Glass. I don’t know exactly where it is, but the website is http://grrecycledglass.com You can probably get more information from that site.

  12. Does anyone know if it’s possible to commission a sculpture, or an interior design element/feature from recycled glass. If they can be blown into glass pebbles, can they blow them into other stuff?

  13. This sound like a good idea, and a beautiful one. Probably would use this idea in my garden, but, wouldn’t glass mulch be too hot for the plants, specially during the summer?

  14. I have buried whole wine bottles (no full!) upside down, leaving about three inches showing, as a border for one of my gardens. It was really cool too.

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