California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) 

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What Happens to Recycled Glass?

Glass logo.Can you guess what the oldest item in your house might be? Here's a hint... You probably used it at dinner and it can be found in your refrigerator. No, it's not the leftovers. It's the glass bottles and jars in your refrigerator or the glass cup you used at dinner! Glass has been used and reused for centuries... even thousands of years. Over three thousand years ago, the Egyptians began making and using glass for all kinds of items from jewelry to drinking cups. Did you know that? Do you know what they made glass out of back then? Well, it's the same ingredients they make glass out of today. Sand! (And a few other ingredients, but mostly sand.) Broken pieces of old glass are mixed with the sand and other ingredients to make many of the glass items we use. So you see, glass can be recycled forever. We'll show you how.


Glass bottles in a recycling bin.In many cities, you can recycle your glass beverage containers at the curbside or take them to a recycling center.


Recycling CenterThe recycling center sorts the glass beverage containers into different colored piles and then takes them to a processing facility.


Recycling processing facility.There, the glass is cleaned and crushed into small pieces called cullet.


Glass manufacturing plant.The cullet is transported to a glass manufacturing plant and mixed with sand, soda ash and limestone (minerals that come out of the ground).


Glass furnaceAfter mixing, the batch is fed into a furnace and is melted into a thick liquid at temperatures that can reach 2800 F. (Ouch! And you thought walking on the sand at the beach was hot.)


Glass moulding machine.The melted glass is dropped into a glass forming machine where it is poured into molds, blown with air and shaped into its final shape such as a soda bottle.


Two semi trucks at a loading dock.Once the mold is removed, the glass is cooled, inspected and shipped to companies that make drinks and food.


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Last updated: January 1, 2010
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