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Why are the countries not recycling glass?

Despite being infinitely recyclable and environmentally beneficial, we can notice a declining trend in the case of recycling glass.

By Dewanshi Tiwari
New Update
glass recycling process

Despite being infinitely recyclable and environmentally beneficial, we can notice a declining trend in the case of recycling glass. More than half of the manufactured glass is ending up in landfills instead of being recycled.

Apart from logistical hurdles like being heavy to transport and breaking under pressure, there is another important reason. That is, glass recycling's unfavorability in the process of recycling owing to its susceptibility to getting contaminated.

Glass is manufactured with three natural and one important recycled ingredient. The natural ingredients include sand, limestone, and soda ash. And, the recycled ingredient is known as Cullet. A cullet is a granular glass that is crushed. Using a cullet greatly reduces dependence on natural raw materials.

waste glass recycling
Waste glass for recycling | Courtesy: Flickr

Countries like the USA only recycled 3.1 million tonnes of glass in 2018. Whereas, 62% of glass waste went straight to landfills. With a higher difficulty to sort out glass from landfills and a shortage of supply of virgin glass, glass recycling is on a downward trend.

Read more: Why glass recycling in the US is broken

The process of single-stream recycling is where all recyclables are collected by a single truck. Then, sorted at a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) is a major reason behind this downward trend. The breakable nature of glass not on makes sorting recyclables difficult but also contaminates other items like paper or plastic. Broken glass poses a great threat to workers at the MRF who are directly in contact with the waste.

Machinery that is used for recycling faces a great risk of being damaged increasing the overall processing and recycling cost of glass. Transporting glass is a very costly affair as well.

Glass on a landfill site
Glass on a landfill site


Moving from a single-stream system to one with multiple streams can help reduce contamination. In addition, will save the cost of sorting different recyclables at the same time. According to Glass Packaging Institute, single stream only helps recycle 40% of glass as opposed to 90% in a multi-stream system.

Read more: Why is Glass Recycling Going Away?

Mobile collection points for glass waste can help cover the huge transportation cost that goes into moving the waste from its source to the recycling facility.

According to the Glass Packaging Institute, substituting a cullet for 10% of glass mixing can reduce CO2 emissions by 5%. Hence, improving the streamlining of recycling glass can prove very efficient in promoting an eco-friendly environment in the long run.

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