Glass manufacturing plays an important role in many eco-friendly products. It offers us a choice in the store instead of plastic packaging. As a conscious shopper, I always look for glass drink bottles. As a matter of fact, glassware is often used at home over an entire lifetime.
We have mastered the versatility of glass and we craft it into all shapes and sizes. We use it for furniture, automobiles, to insulate houses and artwork. It makes a huge difference in our lives. We rely on it and we’ll always find a use for it!
The beauty of glass is it won’t lose its purity. It’s the best way to create new post-consumer products. They recycle it into containers, fiberglass, reflective beads, and road paving material.
However, recycling and glass manufacturing consumes a huge amount of energy! It’s not readily biodegradable? The glass we throw outlasts up to 1000 years. Over time the glass breaks into small pieces from exposure to the sun and oxygen.
Hundreds of years go by and it slowly disintegrates. Only then does the glass turn into molecular pieces. Molecules such as Silica (sand) limestone, soda ash, and feldspar. All-natural resources.
The major contributing factors in the calculation of its carbon footprint is simple. The factors include mining, fossil fuels, transportation, processing, and manufacturing.
The process starts by mining the raw materials to make new glass. The manufacturing process uses fossil fuels to produce temperatures between 2400-3000 degrees Fahrenheit.
Next, they collect used glass, sort it, then transport it to the manufacturing plant. Both the recycled glass called “cullet” and new material melts together in the manufacturing process.
So, not only does the manufacturing process contribute to the increase in CO2. We also ship our used material to end markets overseas. But these foreign governments now only want A-rated recycling material. From the smokestacks of trains and boats to bottles and bowls.
The overseas shipment of used materials, manufacturing, and the final shipment of products increase CO2 levels.
Manufacturing used glass close to urban areas can help solve CO2 emissions. It will create jobs, boost the economy and reduce reliance on fossil fuels. If the glass isn’t recycled it ends up incinerated or sent to the landfill.
The landfills will emit CO2 and methane as long as they exist. The Canadian research connections state that Canada has over 10,000 landfill sites. These sites emit 20 Megatons of CO2 annually.
There is no economic return when we throw away materials into landfills. It’s estimated that 410,000+ tonnes of glass is sent to the incinerator or landfill in Canada.
According to Recycle BC, British Columbia manufacturers recycled Canadian glass. This is a great example of a circular economy. As opposed to the linear economy we’ve built today. A linear economy has a take, make and disposal production model. It has a higher carbon footprint.
What each city needs are a manufacturing and processing plant for each commodity. We can’t rely on foreign governments to offer a solution. A circular economy would support recycling. So, Science has developed a new method in the processing of glass.
There is a fresh idea that extracts liquid silicate from recycled glass. The method reduces energy costs by 50%. This new method of re-manufacturing also requires less money and leaves very little waste.
#Interesting fact. You can find Silicates in 95% of the Earth’s crust and upper mantle. Silica is in many products we use today! You’ll find it in daily products such as toothpaste, fertilizers, and detergents!
Scientists from the University of Queensland are looking for commercial partners to take this method to the next level. They want to use this method to develop household products.
Glass is a necessary element in everyone’s life. New technologies and a circular economy will change us for the better. The entrepreneurial desire to create markets within Canada will make a difference. It’ll create jobs, fight pollution, and lower the carbon footprint.