How are glass bottles recycled?
Domestic waste glass (known as cullet) is easy to recycle. The UK currently recycles around 71% of container glass, like bottles and jars. The glass sector is working towards a 90% collection rate for glass by 2030.
Glass can be collected in bottle banks or as part of your kerbside collection. However, there is still more we can all do, such as remembering to recycle our clear glass jars which are often forgotten.
The UK business sector still has a lot of work to do to recycle glass – bars, restaurants and pubs currently throw away over 129,000 tonnes of glass every year into landfill.
How is it recycled?
Once glass is collected and taken to be reprocessed, it is:
- crushed and contaminants removed (mechanised colour sorting is usually undertaken at this stage if required)
- mixed with the raw materials to colour and/or enhance properties as necessary
- melted in a furnace
- moulded or blown into new bottles or jars.
The production and use of glass has a number of environmental impacts.
New glass is made from four main ingredients: sand, soda ash, limestone and other additives for colour or special treatments. Although there is no shortage of these raw materials as yet, they all have to be quarried, using up natural resources and energy for extraction and processing.
Glass is 100% recyclable and can be endlessly recycled with no loss of quality. Therefore by simply recycling our glass we can:
- reduce non-renewable fossil fuel usage
- reduce the emissions of process CO2 from the carbonate raw materials such as limestone.
Did you know?
- Each tonne of cullet added to the furnace saves 1.2 tonnes of raw materials.
- Each time one tonne of glass is recycled, about 580kg CO2 is saved throughout the supply chain, air pollution is reduced by 20% and water pollution cut by 50%!
Made from recycled
Recycled glass can be used to make a wide range of everyday products and some that are completely unexpected, including:
- new bottles and jars
- glass wool insulation for homes, which also helps with energy efficiency, and
- water filtration media.
The different types of glass
We use many different types of glass in the UK, but at home we mostly use 'soda-lime-silica' glass for containers like bottles and jars. It is important not to mix up the different types of glass as they are re-processed differently.
Different types of glass include:
- borosilicate glass – used for heat-resistant cooking equipment like Pyrex
- lead glass – for sparkling decorative glassware
- glass fibre – for insulation and fibre optic cable.
These different types of glass are not widely recycled so do not add these into your kerbside collection container or bottle banks at the recycling centre.
Colour and quality
During the glass manufacturing process, extra raw materials can be added to give the glass a particular colour or special qualities.
The extra raw materials that can be added are:
- iron for a brown or green colour
- cobalt for blue
- alumina for durability
- boron to improve resistance to heat or cold.
How to recycle glass bottles
Most local authorities collect glass bottles and jars in their household collections. Enter your postcode below to check what you can recycle at home: