By Kim Robson:
We all know recycling is critically important to the health of our planet. Rather than making new bottles from scratch, recycling glass bottles allows new bottles to be created with less energy and fewer new raw materials, which aids conservation and improves energy efficiency. But have you ever thought about the entire path a recycled bottle takes, from when it leaves your possession to when it’s cast into a new product? Let’s take a look at the life path of recycled glass:
Glass for recycling is collected from home and office recycling bins, redemption centers, beverage distributor co-ops, parking lot drop-off locations, and certain special events.
At a “material recovery” facility (MRF), glass travels on a conveyor belt to rotating metal discs, which break up the glass. Smaller bits fall through holes for separate collection, while larger pieces continue down the conveyor belt to a vibrating screen while being blown with high-powered gusts of air to remove any bits of paper, dirt and other detritus from the glass. In order for the glass to be reused for a new container, it also must be free of contaminants such as ceramic bits, light bulb glass, mirror glass and other recyclables. The crushed cleaned glass is called “cullet.”
Processing and Converting
Using an “optical sorter,” cleaned cullet is separated according to color: clear, green or amber. Color-sorted glass is then moved to a cullet processor for further decontamination and sizing according to manufacturing specifications. The standards are usually between 3/8 to 3/4 of an inch. These processed glass chunks now are ready to be shipped to a manufacturer.
The recycled glass is re-melted with other raw materials in a glass furnace, then poured into molds to produce brand new containers.
Whether glass or plastic or aluminum or paper, the purpose of recycling is lost if we don’t also purchase containers made from recycled materials. This completes the loop. These precious resources and more can go on and on indefinitely if we just make the effort.