Why am I having trouble recycling green glass bottles?

If you live in California, this post is not for you. Recycling green glass is easy in California, and there’s a huge market for it. But people living in other parts of the U.S. may be confused and frustrated when their curbside program won’t accept it. 

It’s particularly hard to understand since there’s so much of it. Most wine bottles are made from green glass. Even those that appear clear are often tinted green, and those will also not be accepted in recycling programs that don’t accept green glass.

Why is recycling green glass so difficult?

A big part of the difficulty in recycling green glass comes from the locations of the markets and the cost to ship it, which are heighted by its weight. California has a strong market for the stuff because it’s where the majority of the wine production in the U.S. is. But if the recycled glass is coming from states in the Midwest, like Michigan, the cost to ship it half way across the country is prohibitive.

Recycling glass in general can be cost prohibitive versus making it from scratch. The primary component in virgin glass is silica, or sand, which is readily available and cheap. So if the recycled glass, or cullet, used in the manufacturing process is too expensive it doesn’t make good business sense to use it.

The future of green glass recycling

There are indicators that green glass recycling will increase across the country. The fiberglass industry uses recycled glass cullet, and the preferred type is the green variety. Much of this industry can be found in the Midwest, which is the same area of the country that has the most difficulty recycling green glass. Fiberglass manufacturers will take green glass cullet from anywhere, regardless of how far it has to be shipped. So despite current hardships, we should see recycling rates for green glass continue to rise.


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