Unlike plastic, many forms of glass can be recycled virtually forever without losing any quality or integrity.
So what happens when you break glass? Can you still recycle the broken pieces? Just wrap them up in a paper bag, right?
I used to be under the assumption that the glass was going to be broken down when recycled anyway, so if it the glass is already broken, who cares? Actually, in most places, that’s not true. In fact, it can be very dangerous to try to recycle broken glass as you risk injuring the workers who are processing the materials.
Let’s just speak theoretically…. IS broken glass recyclable?
Yes and no. The bottom line is, I have not found a municipal recycling center that can accept broken glass. If you know of one, please tag them below. And nope, not even our buddy @Terracycle can process broken glass safely. We’re just not there yet with technology. And if the technology does exist somewhere, it’s clearly not being utilized enough.
In theory, some forms of broken glass could be recycled into fiberglass. Surprisingly, it cannot be reprocessed back into its original form. It could be used as a fiberglass additive, but it will never be a wine glass again.
Also take into consideration that window glass differs from glass bottles which surprisingly differs from wine glasses. Many forms of glass like windows or mirrors have chemicals added to them, and they all have various melting points. If they’re accidentally mixed, the newly formed glass can have abnormalities and cracks in it, potentially making it a hazard.
So, the best thing to do is to try not to break your glass. Seems obvious, and also sometimes unavoidable.
If you do break a glass? Check with your local recycling center (go to recyclecoach.com to find your local center) and see if they can recommend suggestions. For windows or mirrors, you might be able to find a construction & demolition recycler that can process the materials. Other centers recommend trying to use the broken glass and make some sort of mosaic art, but that’s not really realistic most of the time, in my opinion.
So, what do you do? Sadly, where we are with recycling technology, waste services recommend carefully packaging the glass into a cardboard box, sealing it, and labeling it clearly as BROKEN GLASS so the trash haulers are aware, and contributing it to landfill. Not ideal.
I hope this post raises awareness to an issue that needs to be addressed. Many of us who are trying to avoid single-use plastic rely on glass. But if it that glass breaks, it basically becomes landfill trash.
We need a better solution immediately!
Sources: Recycle Coach, Hazardous Waste Experts, Residential Waste Systems