We are all being encouraged to recycle more in order to help protect our environment and save energy and we can do this in three main ways.
REDUCE the amount of waste we produce in the first place
REUSE or find another use for an item when it reaches the end of its life
RECYCLE everything else
The reality is that not everyone understands just how important this is. Take glass for example. Empty glass bottles and jars are the most common type of glass waste produced by consumers and represents approximately 80% of all recycled glass. However, despite increased numbers of roadside collections and bottle banks, there is still a lot of glass that is being thrown away along with regular household rubbish and ending up in landfill.
Although glass is not harmful to the environment directly, it doesn’t degrade (break down) and so if it finds its way into landfill, that is where it will stay, forever. Glass is also a valuable commodity and so any ending up in landfill is a waste of a resource and here’s why.
Why recycle glass
Glass is an easy material to recycle and one of the advantages in recycling glass is that it can be recycled over and over again to make new bottles and jars without compromising the quality of the glass itself. Recycling glass also reduces the amount of resources needed to produce new glass and uses a lot less energy. According to the British Glass website, the energy saved by recycling glass in 2001 would have been enough to launch 10 space shuttle missions and the energy saved from recycling just one single bottle is enough to power a computer for 25 minutes.
So if glass is so easy to recycle and saves so much energy, why are recycling rates in the UK lower than some other countries in Europe? Even though we are becoming more aware of the importance of recycling, the UK still recycles less than 50% of its glass and is lagging behind other European countries, some of who are recycling as much as 90% of theirs.
One problem here in the UK is that clear glass cullet is very much in demand. We produce a lot of clear glass but we also export a large amount of it too meaning there is less clear glass to recycle. At the same time we are importing a lot of coloured glass in the form of wine bottles for example, and so we have a situation where not enough clear glass is ending up in the bottle banks to meet the demand for new clear glass and there is a surplus of coloured glass for which there is less of a demand.
One of the challenges involved in the recycling of glass has to be the sorting of it. It has to be separated first by colour and so you can imagine the huge task involved in sorting out large bottle banks full of broken bits of different coloured glass. This is why it is so important when placing bottles and jars into bottle banks that you put the correct colour in the appropriate bank.
How to recycle your waste glass
Try to reuse bottles and jars in the home as much as possible. Perhaps for storing odds and ends or buy refills for glass containers you already have
When buying glass containers, if you have a choice, try to buy ones that are returnable and don’t put these into bottle banks when they are empty, make sure they are actually returned
Always deposit your empty jars and bottles in bottle banks if kerbside collection for glass is not in place in your area
Before recycling your glass containers, rinse them out and remove any metal clips or tops or corks
Don’t deposit window panes, Pyrex, light bulbs or toughened glass into the bottle banks, they are made in a different way and are not suitable for recycling in the same way that other glass is
If every household simply got into the habit of recycling not only glass but as much waste as possible we would help to preserve the earth’s natural resources for future generations, cut down on the CO2 emissions released into the atmosphere and make significant energy savings too. Finally, it is estimated that we will run out of space for landfill within the next decade and so we have to find new ways to dispose of our waste that doesn’t harm the environment or our health. At the moment, reducing, reusing or recycling our waste is the best solution we have.