Glass is capable of being endlessly recycled – but some countries are better than others

Making new glass from cutlet (small glass pieces) saves significant energy. This is partly because it needs a lower temperature to melt. While it is true that much of the materials that go into glass are not in short supply, it is still more sensible to reuse, particularly if your energy requirements are lower. Apart from energy uses, other benefits of recycling include 20% less air pollution and 50% less water pollution. It also means that glass does not have to go into landfill – we need to reduce rubbish going to landfill down to as close to zero as possible.

Glass can be endlessly recycled so why is a country like the USA so far behind many others in this important field

So how do countries around the world do?

Across the EU glass recycling rates have hit 73%. Now up to 80% of recycled glass goes back into making the same things (like bottles) while the rest goes towards other uses such as fibre glass insulation and a whole range of other purposes. Indeed in Sweden Germany, Belgium Luxemburg and Austria, rates are staggeringly high (Sweden recycles more than 95% of its glass). Even in the UK glass recycling is above 76%.

In the USA, about 10 milion metric tonnes of glass is used each year (approximately 30kg for every man woman and child). Yet in the USA, glass recycling rates are about one third. WHY SO MUCH LOWER?

Manufacturers agree that using cutlet is beneficial both to themselves, consumers and the environment. Americans overwhelmingly support glass recycling, so what’s the problem? Over the last 25 years Spain has doubled its glass recycling. The UK has tripled its glass recycling over the same period, yet the USA has barely increased its recycling at all.

One of the main reasons for this failure, is a lack of sorting. Where as across most of Europe people have some sort of glass recycling collection, alongside a bin for the rest of the recycling, in the USA all is mixed together. When things are added that cannot be recycled therefore entire collections are lost.

A fundamental change in how recycling occurs in the USA is clearly needed, though it may be some time before this occurs. If you want to watch a clip talking about the glass recycling issues in the USA click below.

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