How to recycle broken glass

Updated February 21, 2017

City recycling programs will accept many forms of glass for recycling. Clear glass food containers, green glass, and brown glass bottles are especially valuable for recycling. However, some community recycling centres will not accept broken glass, even of a valuable type, because the sharp edges can damage the recycling tools in the plant. These communities encourage residents to dispose of broken glass in the trash, but there are ways you can recycle the shards at home.

Contact your community recycling centre to find out their policy on broken glass. While most recycling centres do not accept it, your community might be an exception. If they do accept it, sort the broken glass separately from the regular glass. Put it in a clearly marked container, and take it to the centre yourself.

Put on protective gloves so you do not cut yourself while handling the glass. Lower the glass shards into a rock tumbler. A rock tumbler is a small machine with a canister attached to a motor. The motor turns the canister containing the rock or glass until the edges are smooth. Pour in enough water to cover the glass, and add one drop of dish soap.

Tumble the glass pieces for 30 minutes. The rock tumbler will remove the sharp edges of the glass, leaving you with smooth-edged glass pieces.

Use the smooth glass pieces to create broken glass art. Using super glue, glue the pieces to the outside of a vase or plant pot to make a decorative garden item. Alternatively, glue them to a wood base, such as a small table, to make a mosaic. A piece of plywood can serve as a mosaic base for displaying on shelves or as a wall hanging.

Glue the pieces of smooth glass to a plain pendant or drop earring set to make a reflective and unique jewellery set.

Things You'll Need

  • Protective gloves
  • Rock tumbler
  • Water
  • Dish soap
  • Super glue
  • Wood base (plywood or table)
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About the Author

Based in Richmond, Va., Dawn Gibbs writes about topics such as history, fashion, literature, crafts, alternative medicine and healthy living. Her work has appeared on and several style websites. Gibbs holds a Bachelor of Arts in history from Virginia Commonwealth University.