Glass is a very useful material when it comes to reducing our impact on the planet and helping in the fight against climate change. That is because it is easy to recycle and can be endlessly reused without losing quality.
New glass is made from sand, soda ash, limestone and other additives included for colour or special treatments. These must be quarried which can damage the landscape, affect the environment and use more energy than recycled glass. It is estimated that recycled glass reduces related air pollution by 20% and related water pollution by 50%.
Container glass (used to make bottles and jars) is particularly easy to recycle but it is also often overlooked when we are recycling around our home. In the UK we recycle about 70% of container glass. However, we still lag behind other countries such as Switzerland and Finland that recycle more than 90% of their glass.
Not all glass is recyclable though and not all glass can be put in your green bin. As our recent waste and recycling survey revealed, there is a huge amount of confusion about glass recycling.
Common glass items and how to recycle or dispose of them
Here is our list of common glass items and how to recycle or dispose of them.
Top tip: There is no need to remove labels from glass bottles and jars, lids can be left on and all colours of glass are accepted.
Glass food and drink bottles and jars, fragrance bottles, moisturiser jars, make-up jars
These are mostly made of soda-lime-silica glass. They can all go in your green bin for recycling.
Glass cookware such as Pyrex dishes or heat proof jugs
These are made from borosilicate glass to help it withstand high temperature changes. It won’t melt properly in most ordinary glass furnaces and if mixed in with your glass recycling could cause serious issues with the recycling process. If in good condition these type of items can be donated to charity shops, given away online or pass them on to friends and family. Otherwise, they must go in your black bin.
These are made from a heatproof glass and may contain metallic components. These cannot go in your green bin. However, low energy light bulbs and fluorescent tubes can be recycled at some Household Recycling Centres. The older incandescent bulbs cannot be recycled and must go in your black bin.
This has been laminated or treated to make it tougher so needs to be processed separately from other glass. If you are having your windows replaced check with the company whether they will recycle your old windows.
Mugs, plates, crockery
Ceramic items cannot be put in the green bin as they won’t melt in a glass furnace and will cause serious issues. If in good condition they can be donated to charity shops, given away online or passed on to friends or family.
Some of these have a different composition to container glass and melt at different temperatures. They should never go in your green bin but if in good condition again they can be donated to charity shops, given away online or passed on to friends or family.
See drinking glasses.
The metallic coating on mirrors will cause contamination if mixed with other glass types. These should not go in your recycling but if in good condition could be donated to charity shops, given away online or passed on to friends or family.
Nail polish bottles
While the glass might be the right type, due to the hazardous chemicals contained in nail polish they cannot go in your green bin.
A different type of glass to bottles and jars and they contain hard to remove metal components. The charity Vision Aid used to work with opticians to recycle them, but this scheme has now closed. This means they must go in your black bin.