8 Ways to Recycle or Reuse Glass
By Joan Whetzel
Every day, Americans recycle glass jars and bottles. The problem is that some glass has to go through special recycling practice. Colored glass like brown beer bottles and green wine bottles, for example, has chemicals, metals and other ingredients added during the initial glassmaking process in order to give them their special color. (Brown and green glass protects the bottles' contents better than a clear bottle.) Consequently, these colored bottles can only be recycled with bottles of the same color, because once the coloring agents have been added, they cannot be removed. So the question becomes, how do you recycle so many different kinds of glass.
1) Curbside Recycling Service
For communities with curbside recycling pickup, by all means make use of it. Clean all glass containers and separate them by color. Curbside pickup usually hauls clear, green and brown glass, but if you have other colors of glass, check with your service ahead of time to be sure. Do not dispose of broken glass through curbside recycling. The broken edges are dangerous and could injure the people hauling it off as well as any neighborhood kids who decide to poke through the containers. And if the curbside container gets knocked over, then you've got broken glass shards in your grass that could get kicked up by the lawn mower. The proper disposal for broken glass is to wrap them in a box or some other container that the glass won't poke through, and then throw the broken pieces in the trash.
2) "Deposit on Return" Bottles
Some states still have bottle-deposit laws on the books. If your state has such laws, and you know of a store that takes bottles for deposit on return, this is a great alternative. Plus if you collect glass bottles from neighbors or from littering sources, then you've got a way to pocket a little extra change.
3) Recycling Plant
Recycling plants frequently take bulk glass drop-offs. The key here is to collect from business (bars that serve beer) and neighbors, or go together with neighbors, and make weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly runs. Then, if the plant pays you for your efforts, either split the money with your neighbors or use it to beautify your neighborhood.
4) Household Containers
Bottles and jars make great household containers. Use wine and glass Coca-Cola ® bottles can be used as candle holders. You've probably seen some wine bottles with layers of colored waxes dripping down the sides. Bottles with wider mouths can be reused as vases, by simply removing their labels and cleaning them thoroughly. Hang a variety of multiple color bottles in trees outside your home for a little color.
Use jars with lids for storage. Mayonnaise jars can be used in a garage shelving unit as see through containers for small parts and other materials to be used for repairs around the house. After cleaning the jars and lids. Screw the lid to the bottom of one of the shelves, evenly spaced. Fill the jars as needed then screw them into the tops. By attaching them to the shelves in this manner, nobody will knock them off. Plus the transparent glass allows you to see what's in them. No labeling required.
Even baby food jars can be used for storing small objects. My husband has used them for tiny screws and nuts. I have used them to separate and store buttons by color - a trick I picked up from my mom.
5) Construction Materials
Use bottoms of glass bottles to create "stained glass" windows. Bind bottle pieces with concrete to make unique kitchen flooring, backsplashes, or recycled glass countertops. Space, stack and bind bottles to create glass walls. Add electrical wiring and lighting fixtures to colored bottles to create unique and colorful lighting for any room, or for an outdoor deck.
Create jewelry with marbles or broken glass by sanding or tumbling them to smooth out the rough edges. Incorporate these found beads into your handcrafted jewelry. Large pieces of broken glass can used with plaster to create table tops, small mirror frames, serving platters and the like.
7) Drinking Glasses
Using a glass bottle cutter, cut the tops of colored or clear bottles. To make a set, make sure the bottles are all cut to the same height. The edges need to be sanded and polished with a Dremel tool, or similar type tool. These containers can be used for drinking glasses.
Smooth and tumble pieces of broken glass and toss them in your landscaping to add color and drama. Or add the broken pieces to wet concrete to create mosaic murals in your front sidewalks or patio.
There's no limit to the ways you can recycle or reuse glass bottles and jars. In fact, if you're creative enough, you could even make some money off your old bottles and jars.