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Although glass is a 97% recyclable material, end-of-life glass used in construction has often ended up in landfill rather than being recycled. As the industry takes a more environmentally conscious approach, recycling and repurposing materials have become a major objective. We will look at what the industry is doing to utilise glass waste and why it is so important 

What is a circular economy? 

The dwindling of non-renewable resources is nothing new, humans have continued to overuse the world’s natural resources with drastic impact. To halt these increasing negative effects caused by humanity, we must move away from the mentality of “take, make, dispose”. A better approach is to work towards a circular economy. It provides a framework for everyone in the industry “to build more sustainable, greener buildings and infrastructure projects and decouple economic growth from the finite resource consumption”. Therefore, this concept represents a systematic change that not only builds economic opportunities and long-term resilience but also provides environmental benefits. This approach offers an excellent solution for waste glass in the construction industry as it highlights how value can be added by following a circular glass recycling system.  

Rethinking the lifecycle of glass  

In 2018, almost 200,00 tonnes of glass from construction sites in the UK alone was sent to landfill[i]. However, with the correct recycling of building glass waste, it can be used effectively, producing new glass products. By adopting this closed-loop system glass can be recycled indefinitely within construction, creating a sustainable stream of materials. As a resultEurope could avoid 925,000 tonnes of landfill every year[ii]. Furthermore, this will also drive an increase in demand for recycled glass products throughout the industryreducing primary production of glass. Therefore, this can significantly reduce the impacts on the environment as for every tonne of recycled broken glass used in manufacturing, it saves 1.2 tonnes of raw materials[iii].

Not only does recycling reduce the amount of raw materials used but as a result, it reduces the carbon intensity of flat glass manufacturing. By recycling waste glass correctly, we can extend the lifecycle of glass in a way that not only benefits future construction but also limits any environmental impacts in the process.  

The importance of glass recycling 

As the climate crisis continues to grow, the focus on recycling throughout the glass industry is bigger than ever. Cullet glass melts at a lower temperature than glass produced from raw materials. As a result, for every 10% of cullet added to the furnace, 2.5% to 3% less energy is used[iv]. By reducing the energy used during manufacturing, the industry can help to limit its environmental impact as well as benefiting from reduced production costs.  

Moreover, using recycled glass also reduces the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere. For every tonne of recycled glass added to the furnace, 250-300kg less CO2 emissions are realised[v]. Therefore, by reducing the level of industrial pollution through the production of recycled glass benefits our entire ecosystem. Recycled glass also reduces air and water pollution by about 20% to 40%, further helping to protect the environment for the future[vi] 

In summary 

As the environment remains an important issue within construction, improved glass recycling will play a key role in building a more sustainable industry. With the promotion of the circular economy and developed glass recycling processes, the industry can continue to make great strides in reducing its environmental impact. Infinitely recyclable, this versatile, high-quality material offers a building solution that can enhance the future of green construction.  

  

The figures below break down how one of our glass supplier ESG recycles our waste glass.  

Clean plate – 97% 

Mixed plate: 
Re-melted – 75% 
Aggregate – 15% 
Waste – 10%  

References:  

[I] https://www.ukgbc.org/ukgbc-work/building-glass-into-a-circular-economy/ 

[ii] https://www.arup.com/perspectives/publications/research/section/re-thinking-the-life-cycle-of-architectural-glass 

[iii] https://www.arup.com/perspectives/publications/research/section/re-thinking-the-life-cycle-of-architectural-glass

[iv] https://www.ctcn.org/technologies/glassrecycling#:~:text=Adding%20cullet%20reduces
%20energy%20use
,reduction%20of%20furnace%20energy%20consumption. 

[v] https://www.glassonweb.com/article/rethinking-life-cycle-architectural-glass 

[vi] https://www.norcalcompactors.net/advantages-and-disadvantages-of-glass-recycling/ 

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