The myth of glass recycling

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Glass jars and bottlesThe great majority of people, I am sure, firmly believe that the glass bottles and glass jars, of which they so diligently remove the labels and then put out for the kerbside recycling pick-up are going to make new glass bottles and -jars. But this is a myths that needs busting.

The great majority of those items of glass recyclables does not go to some glass-works to be melted down into glass products again – some of it does get recycled in that way but the majority of it does not – but gets ground down to make basically that from whence glass is made, namely sand, in this case mostly for road building.

Instead of breaking up those bottles and jar when we generally put them into the recycling bin still being whole they should be, as bottles were until about 1980, returned and reused. The bottles from the dairies that still have doorstep deliveries still are being treated like that, at least for the moment.

As most glass jars have but a few different neck sizes – lid sizes – they could, like they were done during World War Two, also be going back for reuse. It would not take much to make people do that, for both bottles and jars. All that would be needed to have a deposit incorporated again in the price.

Unfortunately, it would appear, the political will is not there to do this (again) and I guess – OK, time for the aluminum hat – somewhere along the line new bottles are better for the economy – you see, we just have to make new stuff and consume it all the time otherwise the economy, according to government and economists, would fail – and reuse just does not fit into that equation.

There have been statements, some years back, from ministers of the British government actually claiming that such a system simply could not work in this country as it had never ever been used. I have no idea where they were during the years before 1980 to say things like that. Some may be too young to actually remember that time, maybe, but just maybe. Or they simply, as children, never collected glass bottles that had been tossed away by people top bring back to the shops for the refund money. Those from the rich background, as most of them are, probably never did this or especially never had to do that.

Recycling is not the answer to glass bottles and jar. Only reuse it. That is as long as they, obviously, are not broken. And in order to get to the reuse part of it we must bring in incentives for people to return such glass items and the system of deposit was that and would work again. It does in other countries, at least as far as bottles are concerned. In Germany there is even a deposit on plastic bottles and thus a great many of them go back, though they are not cleaned and refilled, that is to say reused, but go for recycling. But, obviously, this does not work in this country, as far as our politicians are concerned.

As with much of the recycling we are being sold a half-truth, one could almost say a lie. Much of the recyclables are, more often than not, actually landfilled because there is a lull in the market or the prices for them are considered too low. Few of the recyclables, glass may be an exception to a degree, are also not reclaimed and reprocessed in the home country but are shipped to China and countries in Africa. Most of it due to the fact that environmental protection laws there either do not exist or are much more lax than are those in the UK, the Eu and even the USA.

As far as glass is concerned no glass jars ever get near the recycling bin in my house. They are reused for all manner of things. Bottles, if I cant reuse them in any other way become woodworking scrapers, aka glass shave. For that I do have to smash them up, yes, and that glass can then, when it has done the job I need it to do, go to recycling into whatever.

Reuse is always better than recycling, and, as far as glass jars are concerned I reuse them for all manner of things, from drinking vessels to storage containers and vases.

© 2017