How to dispose of glass bottles?

In this short report we will be discussing the topic “how to dispose of glass bottles?”. First, we will be discussing the components of glass and what factors are associated with it. Secondly, we will discuss the best ways to dispose of glass materials through recycling or reusing. On a final note, we will be discussing what are the effects of glass bottles to our environment upon its disposal. 

What are glass bottles made of? 

Long, short or even curved round glass bottles that are made from scratch contain three main components which are found abunantly in our nature. 

  • Silica sand 
  • Soda ash 
  • Limestone 

Silica is the main ingredient required to make glass bottles and its composition is nearly 70-75% of the total material used. It’s a good thing that this raw material is found abundantly in the earth as silica is the second most common element after oxygen. These are usually found in its oxide form, that is, silicon dioxide or we call it quartz. 

The significance of silica is that it is chemical inert and a hard mineral and since glass bottles contain almost 75% silica, its chemical inertness provides a best source for any food packaging. Glass bottles are used to pack beverages as it does not react with the liquid material contained in it. 

The role of soda ash and limestone is also significant to stabilize and provide shape to glass bottles. Soda ash aka sodium carbonate is also abundantly found in the earth and it’s the most commonly utilized inorganic compound in the world. Soda ash has been used for over 5,000 years and has been safe to the environment since its first use. 

Its addition in glass making does not impart toxic effects rather it lowers the temperature at which the silica melts making it easy for molding and shaping the glass. Last but not the least is the third component – limestone, a carbonate compound, which is widely used for cement manufacture. Limestone is also widely available in the Earth’s crust and also in seabed, thus their depletion is not a cause of concern. 

The use of limestone provides the required stability, hardness, and chemical durability to the manufactured glass bottles. All the main three components give the desired property to the glass making it one of the most efficient materials for consumer and industrial applications. 

However, their proportion can be changed to the required application. For making glass bottles, the following composition is mostly used. This type of glass is called soda-lime glass. 

ComponentPercentage used
Silicon dioxide70%
Soda Ash (Sodium oxide)15%
Limestone (calcium oxide)9%

The composition and the processing method gives glass the following properties. 

  • Transparency 
  • Heat resistance 
  • Pressure and breakage resistance 
  • Chemical resistance 

In addition to this the non-porous and smooth surface of glass makes it ideal for easy cleaning and removing food stains. 

How to dispose of glass bottles? 

Glass bottles when broken contain sharp edges that can cause harm if left in open spaces. Hence it should be taken care that the glass pieces should be disposed of properly. Even when discarding trash it should be covered with thick paper so that the waste collectors do not accidently cut themselves while sorting the trash. 

Another best way is to use empty laundry detergent bottles and put all the glass pieces in it so that it does not harm anyone handling it. In many apartments and housing areas, there is a separate trash can labeled as “Glass only” where the glass waste can be discarded. This way one can ensure that the glass wastes are securely discarded. 

Empty glass bottles are also collected at the supermarket where these can be taken and sold for a certain amount. People are encouraged to deposit their old empty beverage bottles at several collection centers and get an amount for that. This way these bottles can be collected securely and taken to the recycling centers or landfills. 

Another most preferable option is the recycling of glass bottles. Glasses are 100% recyclable which can be carried out any number of times without losing its quality. Recycling glass is very helpful as the raw materials can be utilized again rather than depending on collecting silica, soda ash, and limestone. 

The energy cost required for processing steps such as for collecting and separating raw materials can be reduced to a great extent if we can make glass using cullet or recycled glass. Use of cullet also improves furnace efficiencies as all the contaminants are removed from glass wastes such as aluminum cans, labels, metal screws etc. Owing to its efficient recyclability rate, glass recycling saves a significant amount of our natural resources which can be used for other purposes. 

Is glass bottle disposal eco-friendly? 

The eco-friendly nature of glass bottles depends on how effectively humans dispose of them or recycle them. Glass bottles take 4000 years to biodegrade which makes it equivalent to the plastic wastes in terms of its biodegradability. However, if we recycle glass bottles, there is a considerable reduction in glass waste that goes to the landfill. 

Glass recycling is an efficient method which not only reduces the consumption of raw materials but also provides an eco-friendly method for glass waste disposal. Furthermore, our environment will also benefit by limited quarrying and thus reduced atmospheric air pollution that destroys wildlife. 

Glass recycling is also sustainable as with every recycling there is no compromise to the quality of glass, rather, this process provides several advantages such as lowering greenhouse gas emission, saves energy, and improves air and water quality. Though almost all types of glass bottles are recyclable, there are a set of other glass products that cannot be recycled and wastes generated from them ends up in landfill polluting water and land with their contaminants. 

Such sets of glass include windowpane, ovenware, Pyrex, and crystal. The only way that these can be recycled is to use a specialized recycling center that processes such materials or else it needs to be dumped safely in landfill. 

Some of the main reasons that these types of glasses are non-recyclable are listed below. 

  • Difference in melting temperature of these glasses compared to the bottle glasses. 
  • Some of these glasses are also high heat resistant such as the Pyrex and ceramics and does not melt like the glass bottles. 
  • Chemically treated glasses contaminate the recycling stream and hence need to be disposed of in landfill. 
  • Fluorescent and LED lights are hazardous wastes and cannot be mixed with recyclable glass.

Conclusion 

In this short report we have discussed the topic “how to dispose of glass bottles?” and have discussed some of the ways these can be disposed of. We have also discussed the significance of glass recyclability and how it can save our resources efficiently. On a final note, we have also discussed the different glasses that cannot be recycled and how to dispose them of. 

Frequently asked questions (FAQs): 

Is it bad to throw away glass? 

Yes, glasses are sharp objects that should not be thrown away in open spaces. Also, glass pieces should not be thrown in trash just like that, instead it should be wrapped properly so that the trash collectors do not harm themself. 

Are glass bottles recyclable? 

Glass bottles are highly recyclable, and it is one of the best ways to handle glass bottle waste. Glass bottles can be recycled any number of times as there is no downcycling. With each recycling the quality of glass remains the same unlike any plastic materials. 

Due to its effective recyclability, these glass bottles are collected in many centers and supermarkets. Some even pay a certain amount for empty glass bottles. 

What can you do with crushed glass? 

Fine crushed glasses can be used for several purposes such as in construction application for backfill and roadways. These can also be used to make fiberglass insulation and glass countertops. Even the children’s play area also contains crushed fine glasses along with sand. 

It will be interesting to know that finely crushed glass is used in a water filtration system which is similar to the natural way to water filtering in land. 

Can glass be turned back into sand? 

Fine glass powders are a pure from of sand. Since glass contains silica as the main components, the crush glass resembles very much to the sand. So, yes, the glass can be crushed back to sand which is in its pure form. 

How long does it take glass to decompose? 

Though glasses are made from naturally available materials, glasses generally take 4000 years to completely biodegrade in landfill. Glasses are inert material and are not acted upon by any microorganisms hence they remain in landfill for many years. 

Can glass be melted and reused? 

Yes, glasses can be melted and reused to make glass bottles or other products. Since glass recyclability is very efficient most of the glass bottles are collected for recycling in order to reduce glass waste. However, some of the glass materials cannot be recycled as they either contain chemical contaminants or their melting temperature is different. 

References 

https://www.gpi.org/glass-composition
https://circularlivingco.com/blogs/thescoop/5-types-of-glass-that-arent-recyclable

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