Recycle Your Way To A Greener World!

by David Biome - Date: 2008-06-04 - Word Count: 529 Share This!

Technically glass is said to be a "super-cooled fluid" rather than a "true" solid. But that only matters if you are a student of really old windows, when the slow flow of glass under the influence of gravity makes the lower half of an antique window thicker than the upper.

Glass is made from silica, soda ash and limestone. Soda ash is produced by the worldwide chemicals industry in huge amounts, whilst limestone and silica are quarry products. All the ingredients are melted together at very high temperatures to produce the endless varieties of glass we use today. These range from glass fibres used in insulation via plate glass used in windows and car windscreens, to container glass used in bottles and jars.

A huge amount of energy is used in the chain of processes leading to the production of glass items. So recycling glass must be a good thing, right?

Up to a point. The sad fact is that most glass used in the products and objects we buy is brand new material. That's because the manufacturers insist on uniformity, and the only feasible way to achieve that is to make the glass from scratch (no pun intended!)

The very best thing to do with bottles and jars is theoretically to clean them and reuse them for their original product. In the UK this only happens for the milk bottles that are still delivered to some of our doors. These are cleaned and reused an average of 12 times. The reason that reuse is feasible in this case is that the delivery system for fresh milk can also collect used bottles at little extra cost, for local cleaning and refilling. The reasons why other bottles are never reused (at least in the UK) include the unwillingness of major retailers to handle the returns process, the logistical cost of returning imported bottles (think New Zealand wines), and the nervousness of marketers about the integrity of their brand images.

So most bottles are ground down to make a raw material called cullet, which could then be re-melted to form part of glass production. But it isn't. In fact the glass we recycle is used in lots of other ways, such as inclusion in aggregate mixtures used in road surfaces. Virtually all the bottles we recycle are made from brand new glass. Your recycling efforts won't change that. The reason is that the costs of transporting cullet, its uncertain composition, and the precise specifications needed in the glass bottle industry make it impossible.

Plate glass is an even worse problem. A huge amount of glass is used in replacement glass windows, typically in northern climes in sealed double-glazing units. Ever wondered what happens to the old units? They go to landfill. It is just too difficult, in terms of time and money, to separate the glass from the other materials in the units.

It is in fact really rare to find consumer products made from recycled glass. They should be treasured and encouraged because their producers are able to demonstrate that it can be done So here's a link to a UK retail supplier with several recycled glass products on their range. See? It can be done!

Related Tags: home, uk, eco, green, gift, bamboo, recycled

eco, recycled, green gifts and products, UK

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