Facts on Glass and Glass Recycling

Modern life just would not be possible without glass. From the jar that holds the morning marmalade, the mirror in which we brush our teeth, the windows and car windscreen we look through, the computer screen many of us use at work every day to the light bulb we switch off last thing at night; glass is around us everywhere.

But what is this amazing substance, where does it come from, how is it made, and why is it so easy and effective to recycle?

What is glass?

Glass is a combination of sand and other minerals that are melted together at very high temperatures to form a material that is ideal for a wide range of uses from packaging and construction to fibre optics.

Glass, structurally, is actually more like a liquid, but at room temperature it is so viscous or ’sticky’ it looks and feels like a solid. At higher temperatures glass gradually becomes softer and more like a liquid. It is this latter property which allows glass to be poured, blown, pressed and moulded into such a variety of shapes

How glass is made?

Glass is made by melting together several minerals at very high temperatures. Silica in the form of sand is the main ingredient and this is combined with soda ash and limestone and melted in a furnace at temperatures of 1600oC. Other materials can be added to produce different colours or properties. Glass can also be coated, heat-treated, engraved or decorated.

Whilst still molten, glass can be manipulated to form packaging, car windscreens, glazing or numerous other products. Depending on the end use, the composition of the glass and the rate at which it is allowed to cool will vary, as these two factors are crucial in obtaining the properties the glass maker is seeking to achieve.

Why glass bottles and jars are so useful

Glass bottles and jars can be used for many products, wines, spirits and beers all come in glass as do medicines and cosmetics not to mention numerous foodstuffs.It can be shaped, etched, enamelled, coloured and decorated in an almost infinite number of ways. It is also odourless, chemically inert and 100% recyclable – whilst remaining cost-effective Above all other materials, glass signifies natural quality and substance.

Glass Recycling in the UK

  • 4 million tonnes of bottles and jars were produced by the UK glass manufacturing industry in 2008.
  • Glass bottles and jars produced in the UK have an average recycled content of 30 per cent.
  • 1.65 million tonnes of  bottles and jars were recycled in the UK in 2008.
  • Bottles and jars recycling saved around 385,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions over the past year, equivalent to taking more than 120,000 cars off the road.
  • Municipal bottles and jars collections rose by almost 30 per cent in 2006/07.
  • Bottles and jars consumption is thought to have increased from 1.8 to 2.65 million tonnes between 1984 and 2007. The table attached shows the trend. Download the Microsoft Excel file from Defra.

Glass Recycling in Europe

Three quarters of households find glass the best packaging choice.

Europeans vote for glass. According to a survey of 6,200 European households released (20 April 2009) three quarters of European consumers say glass is their preferred packaging material for food and beverages.

The large scale survey carried out across 12 European countries by FEVE – the European Container Glass Federation – is believed to be one of the most comprehensive ever conducted within the packaging industry (results of the survey).

Recycling Specifications

Due to the various markets for recycled glass, most qualities of glass can be accepted.

Contact us for more details.