business / re- use, reduce, recycle  

Recycling glass

Benefits and opportunities

Recycled glass is a hard, inert material which can be used in many different ways.

The most popular and environmentally favourable approach is to remelt it to produce more glass, a process which can be repeated over and over again.

This not only saves valuable natural resources but also saves energy and reduces emissions of carbon dioxide.

Where it is not possible to use glass in this way (for example, green container glass which exceeds the limited green furnace capacity we have in the UK), the glass may be exported for use in glass furnaces on the Continent.

Alternative domestic markets include its use as a coarse aggregate substitute for use in road construction, concrete product manufacture or as trench backfill. When crushed to a finer size, it may be used in sports turf applications (e.g. golf course bunkers or as top dressing for fairways), grit blasting, glass bead manufacture or as a fluxing agent in brick manufacture.

Another popular use for recycled glass is in fibreglass insulation manufacture where either mixed colour container or flat glass cullet is used offering numerous benefits over virgin materials.


Types of glass

Architectural glass
Recovering glass from windows is not simple, and WRAP is working on the economic, practical and technical challenges to enable more to be collected.
WRAP has published research showing that the domestic window replacement sector generates around 90,000 tonnes of glass every year. Until now, all of that glass has gone straight into landfill and these figures are expected to rise to between 160,000 and 250,000 tonnes per year over the next 10 years.
Key drivers:
    •    Glass can be recycled over and over again, once sent to landfill it is lost forever.
    •    Separating and recycling glass could significantly reduce waste management costs.
    •    Landfill tax will double by 2009, furthering increasing disposal costs.
    •    WRAP continues to develop end markets for recycled glass in areas as diverse as water filtration, sports turf, brick manufacture and decorative aggregate for bar counters.
Container glass
Container glass has been collected through bottle banks since 1977. Further convenience is increasingly becoming available through kerbside collection.

For more information on how to recycle your bottles and jars visit and search by your postcode.
Automotive glass
It is estimated that, every year, the UK disposes of 45,000 tonnes of glass in its old cars and commercial vehicles. If the glass is removed prior to shredding it may be used in a variety of end markets once the plastic laminate interlayer contained in front windscreens is removed. Although commercial separation is limited, the results in end applications are highly encouraging.
Key drivers:
    •    Glass can be recycled over and over again, once sent to landfill it is lost forever.
    •    Separating and recycling glass could significantly reduce waste management costs.
    •    Landfill tax will double by 2009, furthering increasing disposal costs.
Cathode Ray Tube (CRT)
It is estimated that in 2003, the UK disposed of 104,000 tonnes of glass from its old television sets and PC monitors. Furthermore, this level of waste arisings is set to continue until at least 2010.

Some CRT glass is being used in the manufacture of new CRTs, either within the UK or the export market. New uses are required and WRAP is investigating its use as a fluxing agent in clay products (e.g. bricks) or as a means of producing glass bricks and tiles.

Uses for glass in manufacturing

Container glass
Largely centred on clear (or ‘flint’) glass, the remelting of glass is highly efficient without any adverse effects on quality or physical property. Find out more
Powdered glass can be used as a ‘fluxing agent’ during brick and tile manufacture, leading to significant savings in energy and harmful emissions.  Find out more
Water filtration
Potentially the most exciting application, recycled glass filter media can outperform traditional sand filters to conform with ever-tightening legislative standards.  Find out more
Grit blasting
Glass grit is a totally inert material that will match, or perform better, than existing abrasive performance at far less risk to the environment.  Find out more
Concrete and cement
As a natural sand replacement and pozzolan, recycled glass has many potential applications in cement and/or concrete based products. Find out more
Sports turfs
The use of processed sand is a popular and efficient means for this industry to meet the challenge of reducing its environmental impact. Find out more
Fibreglass insulation
Already used extensively by this industry, there is still room for market growth where colour sorting is less critical than other applications. Find out more
Unbound aggregate
Crushed glass is, in many respects, highly suitable for use in applications requiring volumes of unbound aggregate. Find out more
Bituminous materials
The requirements for aggregates for bituminous materials are defined in Volume 1 of the 'Manual of Contract Documents for Highway Works' issued by the Highways Agency. Find out more

To Buy or Sell recycled glass

This material has been reproduced from the website of The Waste and Resources Action Programme;


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