What happens to my glass after it’s recycled?
Is more always better?
We’re delighted when people want to recycle more glass – but putting all the glass types found around your home into your household recycling bin or local bottle and jar bank is actually counterproductive.
The great thing about glass packaging is that it can be recycled and remelted into new glass over and over again – usually to make new bottles and jars. It’s an ideal circular packaging material!
The glass in other items might look the same as bottles and jars – but it can have significant differences, creating problems if it’s mixed with packaging glass for re-melt. And the difficulty is that, like us, most equipment that sorts glass at recycling centres can struggle to tell the difference.
So while your local authority’s rules for what you can and can’t put into household recycling might seem fussy – they’re based on the equipment and systems available in your area, and you should stick to them. Types of glass other than bottles and jars can often be taken to local recycling sites with extra facilities – check out the Recycling Locator to find the most convenient place for you.
Here we explain the reasons why most local authorities don’t want to find these items in your household recycling bin.
Glass cookware (eg heatproof jugs, Pyrex dishes, and microwave turntables)
These are made from borosilicate glass – a special type that withstands temperature changes. But it won’t melt properly in most ordinary glass furnaces and can cause serious problems in the production of most types of glass products. Presence of borosilicate glass can mean whole batches of waste glass cannot be re-melted.
These are made of a heatproof glass, are often coated with special substances and may contain metallic components. All of this can cause problems if they’re re-melted with other types of glass. Old-style incandescent bulbs are not recyclable, but the new energy efficient, fluorescent light bulbs can often be recycled at a local recycling site.*
Glazing is often laminated or has been treated to make it tougher – and so it needs to be processed separately from other glass types if it’s re-melted. Panes of window glass can often be recycled via separate collections at local recycling sites. And if you are having your windows replaced, check with your supplier that they will definitely recycle your old windows via one of the commercial services.
Mugs, plates, crockery
Ceramic items definitely shouldn’t be put in with your glass recycling. They won’t melt in a glass furnace and will cause all sorts of problems and waste. They are also really difficult for machines to separate from glass for recycling – so make sure they don’t get in there in the first place.
Some of these have a different composition to ordinary glass bottles and jars, they may even be made of lead crystal. These glass types will cause will cause problems and wastage in new glass if they get mixed into household recycling.
Just like drinking glasses – these are often made of different glass compositions and cause production problems at re-melt.
Nail varnish bottles
Nail varnish bottles are not normally accepted with bottles and jars. While the glass might be the right type, nail varnish contains chemicals which might not be compatible with the recycling equipment in your area. Normally if you clean it out thoroughly using nail polish remover, you can recycle the glass part of the bottle (not the lid/brush).
The metallic coating on mirrors will cause contamination if it’s mixed with other glass types. However many recycling sites do have a specific collection point for mirrors so that they can be properly processed separately. *
Don’t put old sunglasses or spectacles in with your bottles and jars for recycling. They’re not the same type of glass and have hard to remove metal components. However – the metal content is valuable and charities such as Vision Aid work with opticians around the UK to collect and make use of old spectacles.
*Remember you can recycle lots more glass products at specialist locations – use the Recycling Locator to find the most convenient place for you.