• Circular Indiana

Glass: How to Recycle Right

We get it—recycling can be complicated! Glass is infinitely recyclable, but not all kinds of glass are recyclable in your recycling bin. Putting the wrong kinds of glass in your recycling bin creates contamination, and this is particularly problematic for glass recycling. When you recycle your glass right, you ensure your glass is actually getting recycled.

Up to 80% of recycled glass containers are made back into new containers.

Since the early 1900s, Indiana has been a powerhouse in the world of glass manufacturing. And using recycled glass, known as cullet, in making new glass is actually preferred in many cases, because of the reduced energy costs to make new glass. Additionally, Indiana is one of the top states for using recycled glass in manufacturing, not just for making glass containers, but for other glass end uses, like fiberglass and reflective glass bead.


Glass recycling matters, and we’re here to help you do it right!

General Glass Recycling Guidelines

If you’ve ever heard anyone’s recycling guidelines, you’ve probably heard the phrase “empty, clean, and dry.” Recycled glass is used to make new products—and in order for those products to be safe and functional, the manufacturing inputs can’t have too much contamination. In the case of glass, contamination typically comes in the form of food waste or the wrong kinds of glass.


Contamination causes serious problems in the recycling process. Leftover food and other residue can cause impurities in the glass that could cause the finished product to shatter. Mixing the wrong kinds of glass in your recycling creates cullet that doesn’t melt at the same temperature, causing problems in the manufacturing process when the cullet is melted. Check out our handy guide to ensure you are putting the right kinds of glass in your recycling bin!

Glass cullet is small pieces of crushed glass that can be used as a raw material in making new glass products.

What Types of Glass are Recyclable?

Although glass is accepted for recycling in many recycling programs, it is not available everywhere. Make sure to check with your hauler to ensure glass is accepted.


Glass Beverage Bottles

Pretty much every kind of beverage, alcoholic or not, that comes in glass bottles. This can include wine and beer bottles, soda bottles, and even water and iced tea. All colors of glass bottles are also recyclable, including clear, amber, blue, and green.


Are glass beverage bottles recyclable?

Yes! Make sure to empty and let dry before recycling. Generally, it is fine to leave labels on—these can be removed during processing.


Watch out for:

  • Metal or plastic lids: Most lids on beverage bottles are too small to be recycled and should be thrown away instead. Leaving lids on causes plastic or metal to be mixed into the glass cullet, which causes serious impurities in anything made from the recycled glass.

  • Wine corks: Currently, corks are not recyclable in Indiana, and must be thrown away. The COVID-19 pandemic created challenges for mail-in cork collection programs (like ReCork), but hopefully they will make a comeback soon!

  • Champagne muselets (cork + wire cage): These are not recyclable and belong in the trash.

 

Glass Food Jars

Types of glass food jars

Glass food jars are pretty much any type of glass jar containing food. These can include condiment and salad dressing containers, nut butter and applesauce jars, sauce jars, olive jars, mason jars, baby food jars, and more.


Are glass food jars recyclable

Yes! Make sure to fully empty and rinse any remaining food product out before recycling. No need to worry about paper or plastic labels—these are removed during the recycling process.


Watch out for:

  • Metal or plastic lids: Metal glass jar lids are often recyclable, but must be removed and recycled separately. Note that size of the lid matters—larger lids are more recyclable than small lids. However, plastic lids are typically not recyclable. Most importantly, never leave a lid on. This allows plastic or metal to be mixed into the glass cullet, which causes serious impurities in anything made from the recycled glass.

  • Sticky residue: Especially sticky residue like nut butters or condiments may need a quick scrub with brush or sponge to fully remove residue before recycling.

 

Heat-Treated Glass

Types of heat-treated glass

This includes any types of glass that can withstand very high temperatures. These include glass measuring cups, glass storage containers, glass cookware and bakeware, candles, and more.


Is heat-treated glass recyclable?

Typically no. Because glass that can withstand extremely high temperatures melts at a much higher temperature than other kinds of glass, it can cause problems in the manufacturing process. Dispose of heat-treated glass in your trash.

 

Windows/Fiberglass

What kinds of glass are included in windows/fiberglass?

This can include household, commercial, and automotive glass windows.


Are windows/fiberglass recyclable?

Generally, not in your curbside recycling. These items are often bulky and mixed with additional materials like wood and/or metals. However, there are sometimes local programs that accept windows for reuse or recycling. Check locally to see if there are donation options near you, or try offering on social media marketplaces.

 

Electronic glass

What kinds of electronics contain glass?

Screens on televisions, tablets, monitors, smart watches, phones, and gaming devices can contain glass.


Is electronic glass recyclable?

These are not acceptable in your recycling bin, but most places offer special drop-off programs for electronic waste. Check locally to find an electronic waste program near you!


 

Other Glass

Light bulbs and fixtures, mirrors, eyeglasses, ceramics, porcelain, perfume bottles, broken glass, etc.


What other types of glass are recyclable?

  • Perfume bottles: Yes—make sure to remove the pump and/or cap before recycling

  • Light bulbs: Some (but not all) are recyclable, but not in your curbside bin. Incandescent bulbs belong in your trash can, but check locally for hazardous waste programs that accept CFL or e-waste programs that accept LED light bulbs.

Watch out for:

  • Light fixtures: Not recyclable, but often reusable! Check locally for donation options or offer on social media.

  • Mirrors: These are not recyclable because they are made from a different kind of glass with a special reflective coating. Donate or reuse instead!

  • Eyeglasses: Not recyclable—most lenses are too small to recycle. Many places collect these for donation, so check at local churches or online to find donation options.

  • Ceramics/porcelain: Not recyclable—ceramics and porcelain are actually a different material than regular container glass which contains different chemicals and/or treatments.

  • Glass scent plug-ins: These are not recyclable due to their small size and because most are heat-treated.

  • Broken glass: Recyclable, but always check with your hauler! Our glass manufacturing partners will recycle broken glass; however, make sure your recycling hauler accepts it. Not all haulers or recycling drop-off programs want broken glass due to potential safety concerns for workers.


Thank you for Recycling Your Glass!

Now you know the basics of glass and how to recycle it right, we encourage you to share that knowledge with your circles of influence, like your family, friends and neighbors! And if you want to learn more paper recycling tips, check out our list of what is recyclable or our How to Recycle Right webinar (start at 27:06) for more tips. Thank you for recycling!


Save these images so you always know how to recycle your glass right!

At Circular Indiana, we are providing critical education around recycling and the circular economy, completely free to the public. To allow us to create more content like this blog, support us or become a member today!

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