A Cool Use for Recycled Glass

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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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Patti Roth

Patti began her writing career as a staff writer for the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Still based in Florida, Patti serves as editor for Fort Lauderdale on the Cheap. She regularly writes about environmental, home improvement, education, recycling, art, architecture, wildlife, travel and pet topics.