Glass is the hidden gem in a carbon-neutral future
Recycling glass does not degrade it, and manufacturing it can be carbon-free. So why are countries still burying glass in the ground?
Glass can be recycled infinitely without losing any of its properties. Why, then, are most countries — with the exception of those in Europe — still burying most of their glass as landfill by the tonne? In 2018, the United States alone offloaded almost 7 million tonnes of glass into landfill sites, accounting for 5.2% of all solid municipal waste, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.
The push to cut plastics use is accelerating the search for new materials, especially for containers that can hold liquids. But glass is an existing material that could be the star of a net-zero carbon economy.
Worldwide, glass manufacturing produces at least 86 million tonnes of carbon dioxide every year. But most of this can be eliminated when glass is recycled, and existing technologies could turn glass manufacturing into a mostly carbon-free process. What needs to happen is for countries to stop sending glass to landfill sites, and to make glass recycling mandatory.
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