Glass is a very important material that is used globally for bottles, jars, mobile phones, glasses, etc. It is important to have an effective solution to deal with any glass waste that is produced so that we can reduce our carbon footprint, energy usage, and overall environmental impact. Depending on your situation, glass can be recycled in several different ways. These include sending it to a recycling center, melting it yourself and then molding it to a new shape, or crushing glass into small pieces and then using these pieces elsewhere. This chapter covers all these options and more with the following sections:
A simple definition of glass recycling is the reprocessing of used glass to form new glass 1. The glass that is crushed and ready to be remelted is called cullet. Glass can also be recycled through crushing and integration into roadway materials or reprocessing into foam glass. Glass bottles can also be cleaned and reused and repurposed. We will share here what One Community learned researching glass recycling and what we determined will be the best plan for 100% recycling of all our glass as part of self-sufficient and self-sustainable teacher/demonstration communities, villages, and cities for The Highest Good of All.
One Community is working to create global sustainability and we see a consumer-driven effort to recycle more glass as helpful. We have researched the best small-scale recycling, repurposing, and reuse options for glass so we can implement these as part of the first or our sustainable village rollouts consisting of the Earthbag Village and Duplicable City Center. We’ll add to this page our own experience and anything else we learn as we build the 7 sustainable villages. We are open sourcing the process and our research to help others building teacher/demonstration hubs using our plans, those interested in possibly starting their own glass recycling business, and/or for those who would just like to better understand how glass recycling works and how they can positively contribute to the process.
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Aidan Geissler: Sustainability Researcher
Angela Mao: Sustainability Researcher
Yomi Sanyaolu: Mechanical Engineering Graduate and Technical Writer
The amount of glass produced in the USA was 11.4 million tons in 2017 and 7 million tons of that ended up in landfills that year1. This statistic shows that only about 30% of glass is recycled. In this section, we explain how glass is recycled in urban environments and discuss what you can do to help with this recycling process in the following sections:
Below is the complete recycling process for glass from start to finish. Glass is 100% recyclable and can be recycles infinitely because it does not lose quality or purity during the process2.
Millennium Recycling provides a useful list on ALL types of glass that can be recycled (note: any glass not listed has to be recycled separately or put in the trash):
The following steps should be taken before recycling glass to make life easier for the workers collecting your recycled glass3:
Note: Not doing one or all of these suggestions will not destroy the glass recycling process and, in some cases, may actually be more environmentally conscientious. For example, if water is scarce where you are located, you don’t have to waste it rinsing the glass and removing labels, you can leave it to the recycling plant to handle this in bulk where water will be used more efficiently.
This section is for groups/individuals that want to recycle their own glass whether for reuse or because there is not a local recycling service. A lack of diverse DIY recycling processes exists because glass is brittle, dense, and it contaminates easily4. The two main methods of recycling your own glass are by melting and crushing. Both are covered here in detail.
Easier than both crushing and melting though is repurposing. Reusing glass containers for other applications is as easy as cleaning the containers and putting them to a new use. Here are some creative examples:
Reusing and/or repurposing saves time, energy, and is much safer than DIY crushing or melting.
Glass melts between 1400°-1600° C and can be recycled by melting in a furnace or kiln and then molding it into a new product. This process does not affect the purity of the glass, which is why it is a popular method of glass recycling. In this section, we detail how to recycle glass via melting using a kiln.
For melting glass and then re-molding it, WikiHow provides a useful tutorial on the process here5. The process is summarized below:
Kilns can be bought from $800 to $3,700 from American glass supply.
The process for building your own glass kiln is summarized below. The tutorial uses information gathered from ehow.com6.
Here’s a great video by the King of Random YouTube channel (one of our favorite channels) showing how to make a metal foundry.
Here they are using this foundry to melt glass.
Another method of recycling glass is by crushing. The benefits of crushing glass are that it is relatively safe, easy to do on-site, significantly reduces the space needed for storage, and it can then be used for applications such as mixing concrete7 or even art projects.
Here’s how a glass crusher works8:
Here’s a video from MBMM demonstrating their machines crushing glass into sand.
You can buy glass crushers of varying complexity and for different uses from other sources like Alibaba and AliExpress too. The price ranges from $1,700 to around $5,000, depending on how complex you want the system to be. Crushing the recycled glass on-site and then using it for construction in our Highest Good Housing project will thoroughly reduce the carbon footprint & energy use related to the transportation of glass over long distances. Data on the environmental benefits of recycling glass can be found. The key findings are: every ton of glass recycled saves approximately 670 kg of CO2 & melting 100% recycled glass (cullet) will reduce CO2 emissions by 58% compared to a situation where no cullet was used9.
Operation instructions for a glass crusher can be found here. The daily maintenance of a glass crusher requires the following10:
Here are some examples of the many uses of the recycled crushed glass we will produce:
In the table below, we will compare our two large-scale glass waste processing options we see as realistic for communities: melting using a kiln and crushing. The factors analyzed include: End-product uses for the Highest Good Housing component of One Community, Labor, Safety, Sustainability, and Cost. Of course, small volumes of glass can also be used for art, storage, and other DIY construction projects.
For processing waste glass, One Community will invest in a glass crusher. This conclusion was reached for several reasons: glass crushing is a faster process that can handle larger amounts of the material, the simplicity of it, and there are fewer safety risks associated with it. The crushed glass we produce is going to be essential for the Highest Good housing® projects when constructing the roads and parkways because, as mentioned earlier, it improves construction material performance. The glass crusher from MBMM that crushes glass to sand looks especially promising for allowing us to use glass as sand for even more projects.
One community wants this tutorial to be used as an open-source example for those that are looking for techniques to recycle their own glass and potentially generate money which can be done by selling the crushed glass to construction companies or other related/interested parties. Despite the melting process not being used by us initially, it is still a very viable glass recycling process that we intend to demonstrate and use it later too in the 7 sustainable villages development. Specifically, a full-sized kiln and glass-working shop are included in our designs for the Cob Village (Pod 3).
Here are the numbered resources referenced above:
Here are other resources we’ve found useful:
One Community has invested extensive time and research into the best small and large-scale recycling, repurposing, and reuse options for glass (and plastic, paper, polystyrene/styrofoam, clothing, food and other perishable items, and even non-recyclables). Repurposing and crushing for reuse look to be the easiest, safest, and most sustainable options. We will open source share here our group’s experience with processing 100% of our glass waste as part of the development of the Earthbag Village and Duplicable City Center. When we build the Cob Village (Pod 3), we will add glass melting and blowing to our options for recycling glass. We will evolve this page with videos and other data from this process as we use what we learn to help us improve our recycling, repurposing, and reuse strategies, build these and the other 5 sustainable village models, and grow to a community of hundreds.
Q: Do you really have to clean out glass bottles before recycling?
Cleaning your glass bottles before recycling helps with processing. When glass is crushed though during recycling, it cleans the glass and removes most of the residue. This means a dirty container can still be recycled, but the dirty containers attract bugs and other vermin, so it’s nice if you rinse out containers to the best of your ability.
Q: What shouldn’t be recycled with glass?
The following things should not be put into your recycling bin:
Q: Why doesn’t my community accept glass for recycling?
Recycling is a business and certain materials are in higher demand than others. Glass, while commonly in demand, weighs a lot and is rigid and harder to ship. These two factors often make it more expensive to transport glass for recycling, resulting in a higher cost to run a glass recycling business. If your community can’t make a profit collecting glass, that is probably why it’s not collected.
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