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WNY GOING GREEN: GLASS RECYCLING

Sunday, 04.17.2011 / 1:58 PM / Blue & Gold Make Green
By Michael Jafari  - Graduate Assistant (2010)
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WNY GOING GREEN: GLASS RECYCLING
Littering is one of the major hazards to the earth’s environment.  However, increased awareness of the earth’s environmental health has led to the re-using of harmful materials such as plastic, aluminum and glass.  Unlike plastic and aluminum, glass can harm living organisms in the environment in a drastic way, and can also lead to other problems in our environment if it isn’t properly recycled.

Glass is a non-crystalline solid material that is often seen as optically transparent and brittle.  It is made up of 75% silica and also contains sodium oxide and calcium oxide.  Some typical forms of glass include windows, soda-lime glass, drinking vessels and mirrors.

Because of its makeup, glass can take the form of a liquid when it is over heated. When glass is in its liquid stage, it can be made into several different types of materials such as metallic alloys, ionic melts, aqueous solutions, molecular liquids and polymers.  In most cases, polymer glasses, such as acrylic glass, are a much lighter material than regular silica glasses. 

Glass is extremely breakable in its solid stage and can be harmful in our environment if it is not taken care of.  Because glass is extremely brittle, it can break or shatter into hundreds of tiny sharp pieces that can easily cut skin and puncture deep into human and animal flesh.  The dangers of handling sharp pieces of glass are immense, but they can be even worse for both humans and animals if its pieces were to make its way into food, which could cause major intestinal problems.

Since glass can only reach its liquid stage under extreme heat-melting conditions, most of the glass that gets thrown in a landfill or is littered into the environment is broken into pieces of shard glass that harm the habitat that surrounds it.  Because of its hazardous effects, recycling glass has been on the rise.  According to earth911.com, glass is one of the few materials that can be recycled considerably without losing strength, purity or quality.  In addition, glass bottles and jars are collected in most U.S. communities at the curb, at drop-off collection sites, and through container deposit programs in 10 states, which includes New York. 

A common and convenient way to recycle glass is through your local grocery store.  You can return your deposit glass bottles, instead of just tossing them in the trash.  Most grocery stores offer return deposit programs for your convenience.  

Waste Online’s Glass Information Recycling Sheet states that glass makes up a large component of household and industrial waste due to its weight and density. The waste is typically made up of bottles, broken glassware and light bulbs. Adding to this waste is the fact that many manual methods of creating glass objects have a defect rate of around forty percent.

After you hand in your unwanted glass to a recycling center, glass is melted and re-used for other purposes.  Waste Online goes on to say that glass recycling uses much less energy than creating glass from lime, sand and soda. In fact, every metric ton of waste glass recycled into new items prevents 315 kilograms of carbon dioxide from being leaked into the earth’s atmosphere while producing new glass.  So, recycling glass not only prevents the broken shards from making its way into the environment, but it also cuts down on the amount of air pollution that is released during its production.

Taking care of our unwanted glass is just one of the many ways to make our earth greener.  When you see broken glass, make sure you handle it carefully with a broom, dustpan, shovel, or other utensils that you can use to scoop up its dangerous parts.  Remember, any little bit of glass you clean up or recycle are ways you can make your community more safe and green.

For more tips on helping blue and gold make green or to become a Green Team member, click here.

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