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.
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.
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
- Homemade gifts (food products, crafts, etc.)
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.
Glass jars and bottles may also enhance lawns and gardens by serving as:
- Flower pots
- Receptables for growing small plants and shrubs
- 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 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
- 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
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.