Americans are quickly realizing the environmental impact that recycling truly has; it conserves energy and resources, as well as reducing waste and pollution. Recycling glass can be quite the intensive process, yet the average recycling facility can recycle up to 20 tons of glass per hour. So how, exactly, is glass recycled?
Depending on your local recycling center, you will typically be provided with bins to use for recycling. Large cities will typically pick up recycling curbside at least once a week, but some cities will require you to bring them in yourself. Also, some centers will require you to clean the glass and sort it by color; green, brown or clear, before picking it up. Whether your recycling center requires you to clean and sort the glass yourself, it will again be washed and sorted once it gets to the recycling center. Sorting colors is extremely important, since green glass can only be used to reproduce green glass, brown with brown and clear for clear. Sorters at the facility will be removing any other trash or non-glass that may have gotten mixed in, to keep from contaminating the glass.
Any traces of metal must be removed, which your facility can do by using a large magnet over the collected glass. Metal will contaminate the glass and if not removed in time, the glass cannot be melted down and reproduced into new glass. Once the glass is cleaned, sorted and decontaminated, it heads to the crusher, where it is ground into fine pieces. The glass is then heated to 2,300 degrees and melted into a liquid glass. Once the liquid glass is formed, it’s blended with silica sand, soda ash and limestone and is sent to a second melting process.
The entire process takes almost a month. There are quite a few types of glass that cannot be recycled, including; window glass, eye glasses, fluorescent lighting and glass glass dry erase boards. Many of these glasses are tempered, which is a much stronger and more durable kind of glass. Since they are more resilient to heat, they require much higher temperatures to melt to a full liquid. This means the tempered items will contaminate the regular glass, by producing small pebbles of glass in the new glass, which make the new glass products more easily breakable. Luckily, tempered glass products are so durable, they rarely shatter or need replacing.