Why Can’t You Recycle Glass Anymore?

published Apr 17, 2018
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(Image credit: Lindsay Crandall/Stocksy)

Back in the day (maybe sometime in the ’90s, depending on where you lived) you used to have to separate all your recycling. Paper in one bin, glass and plastic in another. Then single-stream recycling, as it’s called, came along and helped even reluctant residents jump on the recycling bandwagon. So today, without a thought, we can toss all our recyclables into a single bin. Except… recently, some curbside recycling programs have shockingly stopped accepting the most quintessentially recyclable material: glass.

Why can’t I recycle glass through curbside pickup anymore?

While most glass remains decidedly “recyclable,” there are several reasons that city-run recycling pick-up programs have been scaling back on allowing glass in recycling bins. Here are a few (and we’re not saying we agree with these reasons; we’re just presenting them):

  • Broken glass poses a danger to recycling workers. Even if you don’t break the glass, it can easily break anywhere in the transportation process.
  • Broken glass “contaminates” the entire load of recycling. Since the glass is a danger to workers and poses a threat to recycling machinery, loads that contain broken glass are transported wholesale to landfill facilities.
  • Even if glass ends up in landfill, at least it’s non-toxic.
  • It’s cheap to make new glass, so glass for recycling is not high in demand.
  • It can cost trash haulers too much time and money to take glass to glass processing centers. Glass is heavy and colors need to be separated.
(Image credit: Emily Billings)

How can I find out if my city still takes glass?

If your county has decided to stop accepting glass in its curbside recycling program, you should have received a notice. If you think you may have missed it, finding out your county’s recycling guidelines is a quick Google search away. Enter something like “[county name] curbside recycling guidelines.”

What can I do with my glass trash if I can’t put it in my curbside recycling pickup anymore?

If you can’t put glass in your recycling containers anymore, you’ll quickly realize how much faster your trash cans will fill up. And your recycling conscience will probably kill you to be tossing that perfectly recyclable glass into the garbage/landfill; even if glass isn’t toxic to the environment, it still takes over a million years to break down and, simply put, it takes up space.

Luckily there is a solution. Save your glass in a separate bin and make routine trips to your nearest glass recycling plant (again, a quick search will reveal your local recycling centers), where you’ll likely further sort the glass into bins by color. This may be more of a hassle than we’re used to, but (provided you don’t have to drive far to get to a recycling facility), it’s one small way that each of us can help offset our carbon footprint.

And of course, you can find plenty of ways to re-use glass jars and bottles around the house, too: How to Remove Labels From Jars (and Turn Jars Into Glassware)