How to Recycle Glass Bottles & Jars

Glass bottles are frequently used to package liquids like soda, juice, beer, and wine, and are accepted in most curbside recycling programs. So why is the glass recycling rate (34 percent) half that of aluminum cans (67 percent)? We definitely have work to do.

Why Recycle Glass Bottles & Jars?

  • Glass bottles represent the quickest recycled-packaging process, as a bottle can be recycled and back on store shelves in 30 days.
  • Unlike most materials that lose their quality over time, glass can be recycled infinitely with no loss in purity.
  • Although glass bottles have dropped in weight by 40 percent over the past 30 years, they still represent the heaviest form of packaging if they end up in a landfill.

Glass Bottle & Jar Recycling Preparation

  1. Do your best to not break glass bottles, as there is no market for recycling broken glass.
  2. You can leave the label/foil on, but many recyclers will ask you to separate the metal caps. This is partly to ensure that all liquids are removed. Remove all wine corks.
  3. Don’t worry about non-liquids in the bottle, such as a lime wedge in a beer bottle or bits of cork in a wine bottle.
  4. Remove any non-containers from your glass recycling, such as Pyrex, glassware, windows, and mirrors. These glass products can’t be recycled with containers.

Find Recycling Guides for Other Materials

Frequent Glass Bottles & Jars Recycling Questions

Can I recycle glass bottles and jars in my curbside recycling program?

Most large cities accept glass in their curbside recycling programs, but you’ll want to verify acceptance locally. Due to the costs of transportation, risks of breakage, and low commodity value, some communities choose not to accept glass.

Does the shape of the bottle or jar affect its recyclability?

No, bottles and jars are recyclable regardless of shape.

What is the color significance of glass bottles?

Glass bottles originate from sand, and would be clear by default. During the manufacturing process, the addition of metals like cobalt or iron will change the color, but this isn’t just for aesthetic appeal. Darker glass reflects more sunlight, which is why you’ll see beers and wines in brown and green bottles to protect them from sun damage over time. In the recycling process, bottles must be separated by color because you can’t recycle clear bottles and brown bottles together.

Can I make money recycling glass bottles and jars?

Kind of. In 10 states, there is a container deposit law. In those states, consumers pay a per-container fee for soda, beer, and bottled water, which is refunded when empty containers are returned to a drop-off site. So, if you collect glass in one of these states, each container is worth a nickel or dime.

How are glass bottles and jars recycled?

At a materials recovery facility, glass is separated from other materials like metal and paper, then sent to a glass processor. It’s sorted by color and any contaminants are removed. The glass is then crushed into small pieces called cullet, which is heated to 2,600 degrees Fahrenheit and molded into new glass containers.

Are there any states that require glass bottle recycling?

No, but as previously mentioned, 10 states do have container deposit laws where consumers pay a fee for each glass bottle that is returned if they are recycled. This is a way of incentivizing recycling.

Additional Reading