Fredericksburg SHINES

Leading the Way in Sustainability

Minimizing Glass Waste

Recycling solutions was the focus of our Hill Country Eco-Mixer that took place on October 12, 2009.   Click  here  to review.    The subject of glass disposal caught the attention of  many in attendance and resulted  in significant discussion.    In response, it seemed  appropriate that a resource article should be wholly devoted to this specific  topic.    At the same time, more  general information about minimizing waste  is  available on this web site.

Glass in our landfills
As  many as  28 billion glass containers  are discarded in our nation’s landfills each year.   Some experts suggest that this glass refuse will remain indefinitely.    Fortunately, glass  is made of natural materials and doesn’t contaminate the landscape where it is deposited.

Glass jars are great for storing pens and markers

The first step to minimizing  glass waste in our nation’s landfills is to reduce our purchase of glass products beyond what is truly needed.   One option is to consider buying in bulk and then  dividing collected  products into smaller containers with others.

An excellent container for storing a garlic bulb

Glass is a remarkable product in that it may be reused indefinitely without breaking down.   Its transparency makes it well-suited for multiple storage possibilities.    Whenver glass is reused, and not discarded or even recycled, no energy is wasted by making new glass, fuel is saved  (with the lighter weight in garbage trucks), and land is conserved (not needed for landfill or recycling operations).

Glass bottles and jars may be reused in a number of ways in the home, the garage, and the garden, and beyond.    As containers, they have many practical uses  for storage:

  • Food staples (rice, vinegar, cereal, beans, etc.).   In their air-tight containers they may extend the life of these food products beyond conventional packaging.
  • Laundry soap and  dishwasher liquid
  • Drinking water, homemade beer or wine
  • Food leftovers
  • Refilling food or drink orders within a food cooperative, food swap, or CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) arrangements
  • Drink refills at certain business establishments (as health codes permit)
  • Coins, crayons, buttons, paper clips, and other office supplies
  • Arts and crafts tools and paint brushes
  • Nails, screws, bolts, and other small items for the workshop or garage
  • Seeds
  • Homemade gifts (food products, crafts, etc.)
Will be turned into cool-looking lamps in the near future

Will be turned into cool-looking lamps in the near future

Bottles and jars may also be put to reuse with the following re-purposing:

  • Baking (as a rolling pin)
  • Jewelry and ornaments
  • Table centerpieces
  • Lamps.   Gary Goin, local Hill Country artist, otherwise known as the Mesquidar Man, has been making  lamps out of old wine bottles.
  • Christmas lights
  • Candle holders (especially  wine bottles)
  • Flower vases
  • Bottle wall  (see another example just below)
  • School craft projects
  • Cheese trays
  • Bottle trees
  • Artwork.   Both hobbyists and professional artists are finding aesthetically pleasing reuses  for bottles (especially wine bottles).    Read  here  about two  Montana artists who were inspired with new  artistic possibilities for glass.
One example of the many bottle walls found at the Trois Estate, located near Enchanted Rock

One example of the many bottle walls found at the Trois Estate, located near Enchanted Rock

Glass jars and bottles  may also enhance  lawns and gardens by serving as:

  • Flower pots
  • Receptables for growing small  plants and shrubs
  • Birdfeeders
  • Birdbath pedestals
  • Citronella lanterns
  • Bottle trees and other decorative pieces and lawn ornaments

Web links for reusing glass
The following web sites provide  step-by-step instructions on some of these ideas already mentioned and suggest  some other innovative  reuses for glass.

Recycling glass
Recycling is one more option for keeping glass out of the landfill after every effort has been made for reuse.   In the process of manufacturing glass from recycled glass instead of raw materials, pollution of air and water may be  dramatically reduced.     Conservation of energy and landfill space and reduction of carbon emissions  are significant  benefits derived from the recycling process as well.   This recycled glass may then be used in a diversity of applications (such as road construction, landscaping, sand replenishment for beaches, as well as new glass.   The  Glass Packaging Institute  suggests even more possible  uses for recycling glass including:

  • Countertops and flooring
  • Tile and other decorative items
  • Abrasives
  • Concrete pavements and parking lots
  • Brick manufacture
  • Reflective paint for highways

Web links for recycling glass

Listed  is recyling information about a few selected counties in the Hill Country

Kerr County

Blanco County

Hays County has entered into a unique financial arrangement with Blanco County over the latter’s use of glass crushing equipment for use in paving roads.    Read more  about this  collaborative recycling solution.

Fredericksburg has discontinued its glass recycling for the present but is considering options for the future.    Read more  about this decision.


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