What happens to...?
Glass bottles and jars are 100 percent recyclable.
Glass food and beverage containers can be recycled repeatedly without losing their quality.
Thirteen million glass jars are recycled daily in the United States.
Colored glass bottles and food jars are recyclable.
The U.S. throws away enough glass to fill a skyscraper every month.
It takes approximately 30 days for glass products to be recycled and put back on shelves as a new glass product for sale.
In some recycled products, up to 95 percent of the raw materials are replaced by recycled glass.
During the recycling process, clean glass is crushed to create a material called cullet.
Approximately 27 percent of glass that's used in the U.S. is recycled.
Bales of bottles are forklifted off trucks, broken up, and dropped onto the conveyer belts inside. The loosened bottles are prewashed to be separated from any trash and debris. Then bottles are sent through laser sorting machines where beams of light detect the difference between clear plastic and green plastic. The machine then zaps the bottles to the correct color conveyer system. Bottles are washed in a hot, soapy gooey mess that heats them just enough so that their labels and caps fall away. The bottles are then ground into cornflake-sized pieces, washed again and dried, and heated again to eliminate any contaminants. Recycled plastic bottle flakes (rPET) will be shipped to manufacturers in the U.S., China and beyond, where it will be used to make carpets or polyester fabric—even teddy-bear stuffing.
Making a new bottle, however, is slightly more complicated. The plastic flakes must be sterilized and tested to meet food-grade standards. This means plastic flakes are melted, extruded as ribbons of liquid plastic, and shaped into smooth rice-grain-sized pieces. These tiny pellets will be sold to a manufacturer as raw materials for take-away food containers and, of course, plastic bottles. Plastic pellets travel from CarbonLite to beverage companies where they’re melted again, and injected into preformed molds, before being stretched and blown into plastic beverage bottles, which are often filled on-site. From here the filled bottles are shipped out to stores—ready to be purchased, again. Only a handful of companies have fully adopted recycled plastic. One of CarbonLite’s customers, Nestlé, started using 100 percent rPET for its Resource-brand natural spring water this year. Another is Naked Juice, a subsidiary of PepsiCo.
Americans generate trash at a rate of four pounds per day, per person. This translates to staggering 600,000 tons per day and 210 million tons per year, which is almost twice as much per person as most other countries. So what happens to all that trash? One of three things:
- It’s landfilled
- It’s recycled
- It’s composted
The next time you throw something away, consider where it’s going and how long it will be there. Remember, if you can recycle or reuse, you’re not just saving materials, you’re saving the environment and valuable landfill space