Glass containers like bottles and jars can be easily and effectively recycled. This reduces energy output and conserves the natural resources used to produce virgin glass, sand, soda ash and limestone.
Glass bottles and jars can be re-used many times and recycled indefinitely. In Australia, most glass produced contains a substantial proportion of recycled glass. Producing glass from recycled glass rather than raw materials uses 75% less energy. This is largely due to the much lower production temperature required. The energy saved by recycling a single bottle could light a 15-watt low energy light bulb for24 hours. Recycling one tonne of glass also conserves more than 1.1 tonnes of raw materials. Importantly heat-treated glass such as drinkware, window panes, oven-proof glass and pyrex can’t be recycled with glass bottles and jars as this causes contamination of the recycling and it can prevent the recycled molten glass extruding properly or make the new bottles too brittle to use.
In 2010-11, around half a million tonnes of glass was recovered by Visy, one of Australia's largest recycling companies1. If that amount was commercially recycled, that's an "everyday" saving of about 1.8 million households’ energy requirements for a month.
"Everyday" and unit savings per tonne of glass containers2 recycled:
|3,001 km driven3|
|0.62 tonnes CO2e|
|3.8 houses' energy for a month4|
|6.85 GJ LHV (1,904 kWh)|
|13 bath tubs5|
|2.44 kL water|
|18 wheelie bins6|
For an explanation of key terms used, please visit our Glossary.
Glass containers can be recycled easily as part of a comingled system. Many commercial recyclers offer this system by providing a collection bin and pick up service on a regular basis.
After collection, glass bottles and jars are finely crushed. The majority is melted in a furnace, usually with additional raw materials, to produce glass containers. Glass is infinitely recyclable in this manner. Recycled glass is also used as building aggregate, in water filtration and for building materials. Unfortunately it takes just five grams of heat-treated glass to contaminate one tonne of recyclable bottle and jar glass.
2. Data for glass containers (Commercial & Industrial and Construction & Demolition recycling only) contained in Table 4 (p.14) Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water NSW (2010) Environmental Benefits of Recycling, DECCW, Sydney South
3. “Everyday” greenhouse gas emission savings expressed as number of kilometers driven by an average new passenger and light commercial vehicle (206.6g CO2e / km). National Transport Commission (2012) Carbon Dioxide Emissions from New Australian Vehicles 2011 Information Paper
4. “Everyday” cumulative energy demand savings expressed as average household monthly electricity requirements (500 kWh). 1GJ LHV = 278kWh (GJ LHV = Giga-joules of fossil energy (low heating value); kWh = Kilowatt hour)
5. “Everyday” water savings corresponding to average sized bath tubs (0.175 kL capacity)
6. “Everyday” solid waste savings represented by number of average sized wheelie bins (55kg capacity)
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