How to Recycle Glass

When it comes to glass recycling, there’s container glass … and everything else. That’s because non-containers are treated with chemicals to make them more durable, but this reduces the recycling market for things like windows, mirrors, light bulbs and glassware.

Glass Recycling Tips

  1. Do your best to prevent glass from breaking. Not only is broken glass dangerous for you, but it has little recycling value. If glass breaks, wrap it in a plastic bag before throwing away so sanitation workers won’t get injured handling it.
  2. For windows and mirrors, you’ll need to find a construction and demolition (C&D) recycler to process the material. These companies don’t want to take one unit (especially if it’s broken), so unless you are a contractor, you’ll likely need to schedule a bulk waste pick-up with your local municipality’s solid waste office for your mirrors and windows.

Find Recycling Guides for Other Materials

Frequent Glass Recycling Questions

Why is non-container glass so hard to recycle?

Non-container glass, or “treated glass,” features chemicals to make it more durable. However, the first step in glass recycling is to melt the product in a furnace, and treated glass has a different melting point. If glassware were to be recycled with glass bottles, the glassware wouldn’t melt, and therefore it would contaminate the entire load.

Why are some fluorescent light bulbs accepted for recycling and others aren’t?

Fluorescent light bulbs (especially compact fluorescent light bulbs, or CFLs) have a substantial recycling market and numerous recycling opportunities. That’s because they contain mercury, a toxic and valuable metal that can be released into the atmosphere if the bulb breaks in a landfill. Since incandescent bulbs, halogens, and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) don’t contain mercury, the costs of collection and recycling the glass don’t justify the value of the material.

Why isn’t glass recycling more prominent?

Glass is largely comprised of sand, which is in higher supply than metal or oil used to make other products. Much of the glass that we recycle is also downcycled into products like tile or shingles, where it can be cheaper to use virgin material. Glass is also heavier than metal and plastic, and more prone to breaking during transportation.

Additional Reading