Glass can be melted repeatedly to produce the same product and is 100 percent recyclable. The technology for recycling glass is relatively simple. Although glass can be re-melted and changed from one form into another, a problem arises in separating the glass from other materials (e.g., separating the glass in a light bulb from other non-glass components). Although most glass is composed of silica, soda and lime, the type and quantity of other compounds vary in different types of glass. This means some types of glass products may contaminate the container recycling stream.
Container cullet (crushed recycled glass) is available from two major sources: buyback centers and curbside programs. The remaining cullet is recovered at drop-off centers and community service programs. Materials that should not be mixed into typical curbside recycled glass:
- Drinking or wine glasses and plates
- Ceramics, Pyrex or other heat resistant glass
- Light bulbs
- Computer monitors, phone screens
- Plate glass: windows, sliding doors (can be recycled separately)
- Safety glass, car windshields
- Art glass and leaded crystal
Most glass is manufactured into flat sheets, blown into containers, spun into fiberglass, or manufactured into fiber optics. See this video on manufacturing new glass bottles.
According to the United States EPA’s Waste Reduction Model (WARM), glass containers made from recycled material generate fewer greenhouse gas emissions (GHG)PDF download. Per each ton of recycled glass produced, there is 0.2 percent fewer GHG emissions over the life of a bottle compared to glass made from virgin materials.
More recently, some manufacturers are moving away from glass containers and replacing them with plastic bottles, pouches, and aseptic containers. These newer materials are lighter, which reduces transport expense, and are less likely to break. But glass is still the container of choice for many products, such as wine, tomato sauce, and other acidic foods.
CalRecycle’s Glass Recycling: Grants/Loans and Regulated Glass Programs:
Funding Options for Recycled Glass: CalRecycle has a limited number of grants and loans focused on recycled glass.
- Beverage Container Recycling Grant and Payment Program is specifically for cities and counties to encourage an 80 percent recycling rate for beverage containers. CalRecycle is distributing grants to eligible cities and counties specifically for beverage container recycling and litter cleanup activities.
- Recycled Fiber, Plastic, and Glass (FPG) Grant Program is a competitive grant program. The purpose of these grants is to lower overall greenhouse gas emissions by expanding existing capacity or establishing new facilities in California that reduce the amount of material landfilled, by using California-generated postconsumer recycled fiber, plastic, or glass to manufacture products.
- Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Reduction Loan Program. This program provides low-interest loans to manufacturers with requirements similar to the FPG grants above.
- Recycling Market Development Zone (RMDZ) Loan Program provides low-interest loans for the purchase of equipment and other relevant business costs for the manufacturing of products made from recycled postconsumer glass.
CalRecycle has a list of all grants and loans offered by the Department.
Regulated Recycling Programs for Glass: CalRecycle has several regulated programs on glass recycling.
- California Redemption Value (CRV) and container grade glass is recycled through privately-operated redemption centers, curbside collection or special programs. California recyclers and processors who handle CRV glass are regulated by CalRecycle’s Division of Recycling (DOR). Check out the DOR official notices for glass payment information: handling fees, processing fees, scrap value, and quality incentive payments.
- The Glass Cleaning regulation allows recycling centers or processors with mixed loads of glass more than ten percent contaminated to receive CRV program payments for material not otherwise eligible. The glass must be cleaned to certain industrial standards, with approval from the Division of Recycling.
- Glass Minimum Content Requirements: California manufacturers of new glass containers must use at least 35 percent postconsumer recycled glass, or 25 percent if the cullet is mixed-color. Likewise, fiberglass insulation manufacturers must use at least 30 percent postconsumer glass. In recent years, the two industries in California have used more than 700,000 tons of cullet annually.
- The Quality Incentive Payment (QIP) program is designed to improve the quality and marketability of empty beverage containers collected for recycling. Certified recyclers and processors are encouraged to clean and color sort glass in return for a Quality Incentive Payment for each ton recycled.