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Glass is one of the first materials that has been widely recycled in the UK. The first bottle bank was installed in 1977 in Barnsley and since then they have become ubiquitous in your household recycling centre as well as at supermarkets and in car parks.
Nowadays, the vast majority of local authorities will collect glass in your kerbside recycling collection. You may have to separate it into a specific container or maybe you are lucky enough to just be able to put it in a wheelie bin with all your other recycling.
Before you consider recycling any item it is better to consider if the item can be reused. Recycling still requires a lot of energy use and a reused item saves even more of the Earth’s resources than a recycled one.
Glass is an excellent material for reuse; in the past it was common to use milk bottles that would be collected by the milkman or soda bottles which you returned to the shop for a deposit. Because glass can withstand high temperatures, it is easy to sterilise for reuse.
Jam makers have always reused their jars over and over again, so if you make your own jam or know someone who does they may be very grateful for your unwanted jam jars. The most popular way to sterilise the jars is by putting them in the oven Here is how to sterilise your jars for jam-making.
If you are lucky enough to have a local bulk food store, you can also use your empty jars and bottles for storing your bulk-bought food. This is particularly good if you are trying to go plastic-free in the kitchen, they make wonderful storage jars and as a bonus you can see what is in them.
Just a reminder; if you decide to reuse a glass drinks bottle or jar, there is always a danger that a child or even an adult could mistake the bottle for something that they like to eat or drink. Then they could eat or drink it and cause themselves injury or it could even kill them.
Always remove or obscure labels and you should never put anything dangerous such as cleaning fluids in a bottle that previously held a drink.
Home brewers and winemakers should also think carefully about using soft drinks bottle to put their homemade alcoholic drinks in as well. Always remove original labels where possible and keep out of reach of children.
There are lots of other ways that you can reuse glass jars and bottles.
So if you definitely cannot reuse your glass items, which ones can you recycle?
The glass items that can be recycled are jars (e.g. jam, marmalade, sauces, pickles, dips, chutney, baby food, chocolate spread or herbs) and glass bottles (e.g. soda, beer, wine, spirits, oil, vinegar or sauces). Any colour of glass can be recycled including clear, brown, amber, blue or green glass. You can also recycle the glass jars that contained toiletries such as perfume, face creams and aftershave.
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Your glass bottles and jars should be carefully washed and dried before recycling. Apart from helping your recycling plant this will prevent them from going mouldy or attracting animals or insects while they are in your recycling bin.
Also do you know why you should not leave unwashed honey jars outside? Honey brought from overseas can contain bacteria and spores that are very harmful to our indiginous honey bees. Here are some more things that you can do to help bees.
Then you can put your jars and bottles in your recycling bin or take them to your local household recycling centre or bottle bank.
However there are some glass items that you should not put into your recycling bin or taken to the bottle bank. This is because these items are made from a type of glass which has a different melting point to the kind of glass used to make bottles and jars.
The list of items which should not be put in the recycling collection includes items intended as cookware, or anything made from toughened glass, for example:-
These items (apart from light bulbs) should be carefully placed in your waste bin, and I’m afraid still have to go to landfill at present. If the glass item is broken it should be wrapped as well to prevent any injury to your refuse collector. A good environmentally friendly material for this is an old newspaper.
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So what should you do if you break a recyclable bottle or jar? Recycle Now advises you to wrap these up and place them in with your household waste, where they will go to landfill. However I have seen it suggested that you could take the broken item to a bottle bank, since anything that you put in a bottle bank smashes as soon as you put it in the bottle bank anyway.
If you choose to do that, I would recommend wearing gloves and wrapping the item very carefully while you transport it to the bottle bank.
Glass is an amazing material that can be recycled over and over again with almost no loss of quality, unlike plastics or paper.
The unwanted glass bottles and jars are crushed in to a powder which is called cullet. This can then be melted down and remade into a new glass bottle or jar. Coloured glass jars will retain their colour during recycling, so for example, green glass would be recycled into another green glass product. This is why you are asked to sort your bottles out at the bottle bank.
As well as making new jars, glass can also be recycled into fibreglass insulation and it can also be added to concrete which can improve both the appearance and strength of the concrete.