Do’s and don’ts of glass recycling

This article was written by Randy Klauk,

Hennepin County Master Recycler/Composter

Last month, the recycling article was about plastics, which seems to be the most confusing of all the items that get recycled in Minneapolis. Remember, only numbers 1, 2 and 5 plastic can be recycled.

This month, it’s all about glass (food, beverage bottles and jars). In the old days of separating recycling, glass had to be in a bag with the same color of glass, all green together, clear together, and brown bottles and jars needed to be together. Thankfully, we no longer have to do that as the Material Recovery Facilities (MRF, pronounced, Merf) is able to separate the glass.

A major advantage of glass is that it can be recycled endlessly without loss in quality or purity – something that few food and beverage packaging options can claim.

One thing we do need to do with glass is remove the lid and rinse the bottle. Unlike plastic bottles where we leave the cap on (they are both plastic so that works), with glass, most of the lids are metal and need to get to different places at the Material Recovery Facility. However, if the bottle has a plastic cap, throw the cap in the garbage.

Now, here comes the tricky part; if the metal lid is about the size of the palm of your hand, it can go in the blue alley cart with the plastic, glass, paper and other materials. However, if it’s a small cap, like from a wine or beer bottle, it needs a little extra help to get it to the right place. Beer caps are usually made of steel (which is magnetic) and go to a different place at the MRF than aluminum caps (think wine bottles). If you’re not sure, take a magnet from your refrigerator and see if the cap sticks to it. If it does, it’s steel and needs to be put inside of a steel can (like from vegetables or soup). When the can is about half-way full, squeeze the opening closed so the caps do not fall out and then put it in your recycling cart. Another thing to remember is to take off any paper or plastic label if you’re able. If the label is glued on tightly, you could try soaking it in water, but don’t worry a lot about that.

If the cap is aluminum, it is sorted with an “eddy” current that creates a reverse-magnetic field. That ‘field’ lifts and pushes the aluminum out and away. Save your scraps of foil from wine and Champagne tops and crunch them together in a ball no larger than your fist. You can add aluminum foil to this ball.

Glass that can not be recycled in curbside bins include drinking glasses, light bulbs, window glass, ceramics, mirrors, ovenware (including Pyrex glass) and cosmetic bottles.

Recycling one ton of glass saves about 1,330 pounds of sand, 433 pounds of soda ash, 433 pounds of limestone, and 151 pounds of feldspar which is equal to over one ton of natural resources. Recycled glass can be substituted for up to 95 percent of raw materials.