Thanks to its unique properties and endless applications, glass is widely used across a variety of industries. One in particular, the glass container industry, is a $5.5 billion dollar industry in the U.S. alone and is predicted to continue growing globally. In honor of Earth Day (April 22), we’re highlighting the importance and benefits of reusing and recycling glass bottles and containers, as well as the sustainability efforts and qualities of the glass industry as a whole.
Before recycling, or if you live somewhere that does not recycle glass, consider reusing your glass containers. This is an easy way to reduce your contribution to landfills.
While many single-use plastic bottles should not be refilled, glass containers are perfect for reuse. Glass is long-lasting, durable, and corrosion resistant, so it will not break down overtime like plastic. Additionally, glass is the only packaging material that the FDA has certified “generally regarded as safe”. Glass is nontoxic, made from nontoxic raw materials (silica, sand, soda ash, limestone, and recycled glass), and has an almost zero rate of chemical interaction.
Glass jars, bottles, and other types of glass containers can all be reused or repurposed in a variety of ways. For example, you can reuse glass containers for crafts, storage, or DIY projects or as a vase, drinking glass, or planter. Just make sure you sanitize the glass between uses!
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Glass is a fully recyclable material. We can recycle glass over and over endlessly without loss in quality or purity. Recycling glass has enormous environmental benefits including reducing carbon emissions, raw material consumption, energy use, and waste.
- Every 6 tons of recycled container glass used reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 1 ton.
- Every ton of recycled container glass used conserves over a ton of raw materials.
- Energy costs are reduced by 2-3% for every 10% of recycled glass used in the glass manufacturing process, because recycled glass melts at a much lower temperature than the other raw materials used.
- Similarly to reusing glass containers, recycling them also reduces waste. The glass recycling system is closed-loop. This means no additional waste or by-products are created in the process.
The entire glass industry is making substantial contributions towards the future of sustainability and the long-term health of the environment. Experts regularly reassess the glass manufacturing process to find ways to improve efficiency. Engineers are always experimenting with new sustainable applications of glass across all industries. Already, glass containers have become 40% lighter than they were 30 years ago, a design effort that has greatly reduced the carbon footprint of transporting glass.
While glass is a highly sustainable material and the industry is constantly improving, the rest is up to us. No matter how environmentally friendly glass is, the final step in the life-cycle of glass containers should always be reuse or recycle. Together, we can contribute to a healthy and safe environment for the future.
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