Whether or not you should recycle glass depends on a few considerations. First of all, glass does not present the same kind of replenishment problem as something like plastic. Plastic is usually made from oil or natural gas, which are both finite resources, and thus recycling plastic helps limit our consumption of these precious fossil fuels. Meanwhile, glass is made from sand -- and we're not going to run out of sand anytime soon.
Recycling glass is relatively simple if it's all the same type. But if you mix amber, green and clear glass together, you've created a lot more work for the recycling center. The centers have to separate the different kinds of glass to melt them down and make new products. In a landfill, glass is harmless. Ground up glass is just sand -- it's inert. Ultimately, glass in a landfill just takes up space. However, it's still better to reuse or recycle glass whenever possible, because the space it does take up in the landfill is significant. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, about 3 million tons of glass went through recycling plants in the United States in the year 2009 alone [source: Earth 911]. Imagine if all of that glass had gone straight to the dump!
In most cases, glass is a very efficient material to recycle, because it takes much less energy and money to recycle the material than to make it from scratch. There are essentially two ways to recycle glass:
- Bottles (only containers like bottles are recycled because recycling other kinds of glass usually is too expensive or difficult) are collected from consumers, then washed thoroughly and disinfected for reuse.
- Bottles are collected and sorted by color. The glass is then ground into sand-like pieces called cullet, which are sifted and filtered using magnets, lasers and other methods. It's finally melted down and made into new glass.
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