Glass Manufactured From Virgin Raw Materials and its Environmental Impact vs. Recycled Glass Products

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Glass is made from three primary materials: soda ash, sand and limestone, but the process of making glass this way is harmful to the environment because the mining that is required to extract the necessary resources destroys land and increases the consumption of energy and therefore oil. Even though the primary resources needed to make glass are plentiful (bauxite, sand and iron-ore), most of the glass products in Australia today are made from recycled glass due to the negative environmental impact of mining for the raw materials.

There are very good reasons for recycling glass instead of producing it from raw materials. Firstly, extracting and then transporting these materials takes enormous amounts of energy to accomplish. Added to this, the energy it takes to then produce the glass is also very high because the manufacturing process requires very high temperatures, which only further contributes to the production of greenhouse gases. Another good reason for recycling things like recyclable bottles is that every product that is recycled is diverted away from landfill, helping to conserve precious landfill space. It is estimated that glass that ends up in landfill takes one million years to degrade through natural processes.

An interested property of glass is that it can be recycled an unlimited number of times, so producing recyclable bottles is a great way to help conserve virgin land, save space in landfills, reduce the energy required to extract raw materials, and therefore reduce the amount of oil and minerals used. The process of recycling glass involves crushing it to produce 'cullet', which can be mixed with raw materials to make new glass products. Manufacturing new glass from recycled cullet is more energy efficient because the mixture requires a lower temperature to melt than does all-virgin material.

Local councils run recycling systems in Australia that includes the collection of empty glass bottles from kerbside bins so that they can be processed into new glass products. Most household glass products can be placed into these recycling bins or dedicated bottle bins for collection; these include all clear, brown and green bottles, and glass jars. These recyclable products should be rinsed and the lids removed before being placed into recycling bins.

Other glass has a different melting temperature and cannot be mixed with recyclable glass. This includes drinking glass, all ceramics (china, porcelain, pottery, and glass-ceramic cookware), oven-proof glass, mirrors, windows, windscreens, light globes, opaque white bottles, and laboratory glass such as Pyrex. It's important that broken drinking glass does not find its way into recycling bins - it only takes 5 grams of this material to contaminate a whole ton of recyclable glass.