How to recycle glass cullet

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How to recycle glass cullet
Coloured glass needs to be sorted when making quality glass cullet. (Robert Tardio/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Glass cullet is crushed glass used for recycling and remelting. Glass does not lose its properties when remelted and so can be used repeatedly. Glass cullet is in high demand by manufacturers because it costs less than raw materials to make glass, less energy is needed to process it and it melts at a lower temperature than raw glass materials, thereby preserving the life of the furnace. Because making glass from glass cullet uses less energy, it also reduces the emission of greenhouse gases such as nitrogen oxide and carbon dioxide. More than 90 per cent of glass cullet is recycled into new glass containers, but it is increasingly also used to make fibreglass, abrasives, aggregate and decorative items, according to the EPA. Now, municipalities and recycling facilities have a number of options to recycle their glass cullet.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Glass recycling program
  • Glass recycling facility
  • Glass processing plant

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  1. 1

    Sell high quality glass cullet to a glass container factory. High quality glass cullet is made from clean, clear container glass that has been sorted and is free of contaminants. This type of glass will have a nearly uniform chemical composition and melting point and is of high economic value.

  2. 2

    Use unsorted glass cullet for road base aggregate. Glass cullet can be used instead of gravel as road base. Call your state transportation department to find out whether it has specifications for how much recycled glass cullet can be in the mix.

  3. 3

    Mix 5 per cent to 10 per cent of glass cullet for road "glassphalt." Glass cullet mixed with asphalt can be used for road surfaces and airport runways. The properties of glassphalt are similar to those of conventional asphalt.

  4. 4

    Use ground-up glass as glass "sand" in a mix with salt and magnesium chloride to apply to roads and walkways in winter. This application of glass cullet provides better traction than regular sand.

  5. 5

    Use non-container or mixed colour glass cullet for septic systems. Glass cullet has good drainage qualities. Use it underneath pipes when installing septic systems. Use it also for filtration systems. Glass cullet works better than silica, because it does not clog up as much and it lasts longer.

  6. 6

    Sell pulverised glass cullet to flooring companies for making glass epoxy floors and counter tops. Glass epoxy floors wear well and last long.

Tips and warnings

  • Container glass is the best source for high quality glass cullet.
  • Some glass cullet facilities may use lasers to sort colours in mixed crushed glass. New technologies in glass recycling processes continue to be developed.
  • Lower quality glass cullet, containing more contaminants, is used for cement, aggregate, road base and fibreglass insulation.
  • Road aggregate contractors can use the same machines that crush aggregate to crush glass cullet.
  • Glass cullet is very successful as a reflective material in road stripes and in making glass tiles, but these applications don't require much glass cullet tonnage.
  • Selling glass cullet to distant container, flooring or other companies may not be economically feasible due to transportation costs.

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