Did you know that virtually ALL glass contains some recycled material? Recycled glass is nearly always in the recipe for new glass, and the more of it that gets used, the less energy is required in the process. Glass is made from a combination of materials like soda ash, sand and limestone, plus a material called “cullet”. Cullet is the term for recycled glass that is ready for the furnace, and is second only to sand in terms of volume when making glass.
Glass like that from wine and soda bottles, etc. is 100% recyclable and can continue to be recycled over and over without loss of quality or purity. That is not the case with automotive or window glass.
The process for recycling automotive windshield glass is to separate the glass from its plastic membrane—called PVB. Then it can be pulverized into clean, reusable glass. Glass, like windows, ovenware, Pyrex, crystal, etc. are manufactured through a different process than the one used for food and beverage containers. This recovered glass is instead used for non-container glass products. These “secondary” uses include tile production, filtration materials, sand blasting, concrete pavements, and parking lots. Additionally, companies that manufacture fiberglass often utilize glass from car windows and windshields. Plus, broken glass can be combined with concrete. This makes an incredibly useful mixture that can be utilized in decorative terrazzo flooring, countertops, and even reflective yellow road paint.
Recycling window glass can be more difficult due to some notable differences. Since bottle glass has a different chemical composition and melting temperature than window glass, the two products can’t be recycled together. Also, most windows come attached to metal or wooden frames and have to be disassembled, which has an associated labor cost. Sorting the different types of window glass poses a challenge as well. Is the glass tinted or not? Is it safety glass or tempered glass? Not all of these different subsets of window glass can be combined to create a new product. Creative industry professionals are finding other uses for old windows. Like auto glass, windows can be melted and remanufactured into fiberglass, flooring and paint products as well.
Some companies choose to tumble old glass (and ceramics) for landscape, floral and decorative applications. Old windows can sometimes be reused as is. Or, homeowners can donate them to a building material reuse company, or use them for DIY projects to construct greenhouses or cold frames for the garden. The fact is, today’s homeowners frequently aim to prioritize greener options over more wasteful alternatives.
Glass continues to be among the world’s most adaptable substances, and a recycled windshield or window can be incredibly useful to others; plainly, recycling is just better for the environment. At Binswanger, we recycle our glass in the areas where proper facilities and services are available. We strive to take care of the environment, and to avoid sending materials to landfills when and where we are able.