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Used glass disposal and recycling - which glass belongs in which container?

Waste glass disposal: empty beverage bottles, jam jars, perfume bottles. They all belong in the waste glass. Simply collect it at home and then dispose of it in the next used glass container. Glass recycling is so easy and the importance of glass as a recycling material is correspondingly high.

What sounds so simple at first, however, leads to uncertainties in the practical implementation, i.e. the disposal of glass packaging. What to do with the blue, red or yellow bottle? Can I dispose of the screw cap? What about broken glass, window glass or porcelain? And how clean does a glass bottle actually have to be before I can put it in the container? RESORTI explains what needs to be considered when disposing of old glass and why the use of broken glass is a valuable contribution to environmental protection.

Notice from RESORTI:
Please note: We look forward to your messages about waste disposal, however, do not accept materials for recycling. For this purpose, please contact your local waste disposal company or the city administration. Many Thanks!

What is glass recycling?

Even if the question sounds a bit trivial at first, it should be kept in mind that the term glass recycling, strictly speaking, describes two different methods of recycling glass. In detail, the following distinction can be made here:

  • Glass recycling primarily refers to the collection and recycling of used glass from food packaging (glass bottles, glasses, etc.). This is melted down again as so-called waste glass in the course of the recycling process for the production of raw glass and is now an essential part of glass production.
  • In addition, glass recycling also refers to the refilling of glasses or bottles, i.e. their multiple use in the deposit and returnable system. In addition to glass beverage bottles and yoghurt glasses, this also applies to PET bottles.

The recycling of used glass is considered to be the archetype of modern circular economy and accordingly the first state approaches to the systematic collection of used glass packaging can be found as early as the early 1970s. Such a comprehensive collection system for waste glass from private households or commercial and industrial companies was introduced in Germany in 1974.

In addition to its high availability and distribution, there is one decisive advantage for glass - in contrast to many other raw materials -: the material can be used without it thanks to what is known as bottle-to-bottle recycling Melt down the loss of quality any number of times and process it into new products.

Used glass disposal with RESORTI

The temperature when melting glass is lower than when producing new ones. In this respect, the combination of waste glass collection and glass recycling saves energy and protects the climate at the same time. This process can be repeated infinitely often, which makes glass a very environmentally friendly material and a valuable raw material for recycling - unlike e.g. plastic bottles. In our article From the bottle to the fleece sweater: Disposal of PET bottles we go into more detail.

The recycling cycle for glass and waste glass

The recycling cycle for glass runs - roughly outlined - in the following eight steps or phases:

  1. Consumers dispose of their old glass in glass containers of different colors (amber glass, green glass and white glass).
  2. Coarse contaminants are removed from the collected waste glass in processing plants.
  3. It is then broken down into broken glass.
  4. Then these shards are automatically freed of foreign matter such as paper and metal. These can of course also be recycled.
  5. Machines sift the broken glass.
  6. The cleaned and pre-sorted waste glass is then melted down in the glassworks blast furnace.
  7. This is followed by shaping, for example into new glass bottles or preserving jars.
  8. This is then used to create the finished end products and glass packaging.

From old glass to new product in eight steps: the glass recycling cycle. (c) RESORTI blog

Glass recycling without waste glass containers does not work

As already mentioned in the introduction, glass plays a central role in the recycling process. However, the raw material glass, more precisely glass packaging, must also be collected. In other words, glass recycling in its current form cannot be carried out without a suitable collection container. Nationwide, there are now over 300,000 waste glass containers on street corners or often in front of supermarkets or shopping centers.

Against this background, the first rule is: Collect old glass and bottles at home so that the trip to the waste glass container is really worthwhile in the end. Because the glass collected here is 100 percent recyclable without any loss of quality. The glass packaging and returnable bottles collected through disposal now account for up to 90 percent of the raw materials for new glass.

Glass has a recycling rate of 100% - if it is disposed of correctly

Sorting glass correctly: what belongs in the glass container?

What goes in the glass container? Dispose of old glass correctly: what belongs in the container and what does not. The following table simplifies the disposal of used glass for you.

Belongs in the waste glassDoesn't belong in the waste glass
Glass bottlesCar windows and car lights
Beverage bottlesLead crystal container (e.g. ashtray)
Canning jarsFlower pots and vases
pharmaceutical glass containersWindow glass
other packaging glassGlass decoration like Christmas tree balls
Glass dishes and drinking glasses
Glass hobs (Ceran)
Incandescent and energy saving lamps
Fireplace glass
Fluorescent tubes
Fairy lights
Monitor and television glass
Porcelain, ceramics and earthenware

You can't really go wrong with glass disposal. At least as long as you follow a few basic rules about what belongs in the glass container and what does not. Many people assume that you can get rid of any form of glass waste - whether it is an empty bottle or a glass jar - in these collection containers. But here, too, there is a simple rule of thumb - similar to the color separation of waste glass - in the waste glass container you can dispose of almost everything that fits through the opening as a whole. The only thing you shouldn't throw in here in bulk is shards. They belong in the residual waste.

What belongs in the waste glass container? - RESORTI gives tips!

Glass recycling made easy: what is waste glass and can it be put in the glass container?

Quite simply: Everything that belongs in the packaging glass or hollow glass category can also be thrown into the appropriate waste glass container. In detail, the following glasses can be disposed of in the old glass:

  • Hollow jars such as jars with screw caps, such as jam, honey, cucumber or olive jars.
  • Glass bottles, such as champagne, syrup or schnapps bottles.
  • Pharmaceutical glass containers and bottles.
  • Smaller bottles made of glass, e.g. from cough syrup, perfume or nail polish.

Separate waste glass according to color: What goes into which container when recycling old glass?

When they arrive at the container, many people face the next problem of disposing of old glass: sorting by color. White glass, amber glass and green glass can still be distinguished quite well based on the colors. But where should the blue Prosecco bottle go?

Blue glass where - or in which glass container do you dispose of blue glass? RESORTI blog: waste glass disposal and glass recycling

While in Austria a distinction is only made between white and stained glass, the important basic rule of the glass container in Germany is: All other colors, such as blue, yellow or red, should be disposed of in the glass container for green glass! This stained glass can easily be mixed with other colors during recycling.

Glass bottles that have been lying in nature for years and are now weathered and overgrown with moss also belong in the waste glass container. Since no concrete glass color should be recognizable here, you should dispose of these bottles (as well as other colors that cannot be directly assigned) in the green containers. Modern glass processing plants are able to feed even heavily soiled glass into an orderly recycling cycle after it has been pre-shredded.

The recycling codes for the various types of glass provide additional guidance as to which glass belongs in which container:

Recycling code 70 (GL) for colorless glass
Recycling code 71 (GL) for green glass
Recycling code 72 (GL) for brown glass

Do I have to rinse out empty glass packaging and glasses for the waste glass container?

Anyone who collects their old glass in their own four walls is likely to have very little interest in food residues, etc. Doesn't smell particularly good over time, gets moldy and may also attract vermin. Many people therefore rinse glass containers such as jam jars thoroughly, which is actually not necessary. It is sufficient to thoroughly scrape out the empty glasses, glass containers and bottles before throwing them into the glass container. And it also helps against bad smells and vermin with old glass: Simply screw the lid back on until you are ready to dispose of it. Definitely saves water. Honey jars are an exception. You should rinse them before disposing of them. Otherwise, the bees can become infected with American foulbrood, also known as bee plague.

Can I also add full glasses to the old glass?

There are occasional claims that you can throw full glasses into the container, but this is not correct. Because glass packaging should be emptied at home and disposed of in a "spoon-clean" condition. Depending on the contents of the glasses, this belongs in the residual or household waste.

Can I throw glasses with lids or crown caps into the glass container?

Screw caps, corks and other lids from used glasses and bottles really have no place in the recycling of old glass and instead belong - depending on the material - in the yellow bin or in the residual waste (see also the article How to dispose of plastic correctly). In principle, modern glass processing plants can sort out these closures or then also recycle them, but this also requires higher energy consumption. Therefore it is better to separate beforehand. In case of doubt, however, it is better to leave the lids on the waste glass when disposing of them instead of placing them next to or on the glass container. There they are under no circumstances fed into the recycling cycle or they also pollute the environment.

White glass containers, green glass containers or amber glass containers - what goes where? - RESORTI blog

Do I have to remove the labels from the bottles and jars before disposing of them?

No, labels and / or stickers on the packaging glass do not need to be removed separately before disposal. Foreign matter and impurities such as paper residues or adhesions of plastic or metal are automatically separated as part of the glass recycling process.

Can I dispose of waste glass at public waste glass collection bins around the clock?

In theory yes, in practice but definitely NO. Throwing used glass into the container or emptying the collecting bins is a pretty noisy affair. Especially when the glass containers are in the immediate vicinity of your own apartment. Anyone who has ever dropped a glass or broken a mirror should have a rough idea. Although there is no nationwide uniform regulation with regard to specific times, the Federal Environment Agency recommends the following times on its website for orientation for users and operators:

  • Drop-in times for waste glass containers: on weekdays between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. At the weekend, ideally not at all, although this is handled a little more loosely at the municipal level, at least for Saturday.
  • Containers should not be emptied after 5:00 p.m. and only during non-noise-sensitive times.

If you are still unsure how it will behave in detail at a recycling point for old glass, a large sign or sticker is attached to each container, on which both the days and the times on which the throwing in of Bottles and glass containers are allowed.

Throwing in times for waste glass containers - information sign. Waste glass disposal and glass recycling RESORTI blog

What to do when the waste glass container is full?

Used glass containers are usually emptied weekly or at regular intervals. Nevertheless, it can of course always happen that a container is full. In such a case, it is best to look for another depot container or take your old glass home with you. Some municipalities communicate the specific emptying times directly on the containers, but in case of doubt, this information can always be called up on the official website of the city or by telephone.

Can I put bottles and glass containers on or next to the container?

Again, the answer is definitely NO! In addition to the pollution of the environment, two other aspects come into play in this context. On the one hand, bottles and glasses that have been placed or put down make it difficult to remove the waste glass containers, and on the other hand, they can break relatively quickly. Your broken pieces on the sidewalk or the street endanger not only vehicle tires (cars, bicycles, etc.), but in the worst case also people and animals.

Collection container for amber glass and green glass.

What may not be disposed of in the waste glass container?

Anything that does not fall under the aforementioned glass container categories or does not fit through the opening of the waste glass container does not belong in there either. The reality at or in the collection points still looks much more chaotic. Therefore, the following is an overview including the reason why certain types of glass should not be disposed of in the waste glass container:

  • Bottles and glasses that are actually intended for reusable use. As long as these are still usable, they should also be reused. As broken glass, however, they are disposed of in the household waste - similar to drinking glasses or porcelain / ceramics - and thus do not unnecessarily burden the glass recycling cycle.
  • Drinking glasses do not belong in the waste glass container either, because they are usually much thicker or more robust than packaging glass. The glass used for the production of drinking glasses therefore has a significantly higher melting point and must be filtered out again as foreign matter during the recycling process of used glass. An unnecessary additional expenditure of energy, which at the same time explains why this glass should NOT be disposed of in the container for glass.
  • This argument also applies to containers and bottles made of lead crystal, such as flower vases, ashtrays, chandeliers or wine glasses. The glass used here must also be filtered out as foreign matter in the course of glass recycling.
  • Earthenware and ceramics.
  • Light bulbs, fluorescent tubes and other illuminants. As a consumer, you can hand these in at the appropriate collection points in supermarkets and electronics stores and do not belong to glass recycling. This also applies to energy-saving lamps.
  • Flat glass such as broken porcelain and shards of mirrors, window glass and car windows are disposed of in the residual or household waste and do not throw them into the glass container.
  • Christmas tree balls
  • Ceramic hobs

But is it not recycled glass that has been separated?

The myth that separating waste glass is nonsensical because all the glasses on the trucks are put back in one large container persists. But he is wrong.

Because if you take the time and follow the emptying process in detail, you will see that the garbage trucks operate systematically. They have different chambers or containers for green, white and amber glass. This can be seen particularly well from an elevation. In this respect, correct separation is all the more important here, especially since white glass can only be profitably recycled if it is not contaminated by other colors.

The importance of waste glass for the glass manufacturing process

Glass is made by melting quartz sand, soda and lime, i.e. with the help of raw materials that are available in large quantities. Depending on which glass product is to be created, the components are mixed differently. At temperatures above 1,600 degrees Celsius, they combine to form a tough glass melt that can be shaped into any shape at around 1,000 degrees Celsius.

Martin Koch from RESORTI: You need the appropriate equipment to properly collect and dispose of waste glass. Collect old jam jars, empty bottles at home in appropriate waste bins and make it easier for yourself to dispose of them. RESORTI offers a wide range of recyclable material collectors and waste separation systems that make your waste organization easier.

For a better understanding of glass recycling and the processes linked to it, first a few introductory remarks on the basis, i.e. the raw material glass. This is essentially based on the combination of silicon dioxide, lime, ash, dolomite and soda.While these constituents are relatively easy to obtain as natural occurrences, the temperature of 1600 degrees required for melting them down requires a relatively high expenditure of energy. In short, the production of raw glass ties up some resources. And this is where the recycling of used glass begins.

  • Apart from the fact that waste glass does not have to be dumped long-term, the addition of broken glass from waste glass can also significantly reduce the energy required for production. Compared to the original manufacturing process, the required melting energy is reduced by approx. 0.3% per percentage point of old cullet. Against this background, modern glass production can save around 20% annually in this area nationwide by using broken glass. Compared to the 1970s, the relevant energy efficiency has even improved by 77%.
  • This also applies to the raw materials required. While the production of one ton of raw glass originally required around 1.2 tons of the above-mentioned raw materials, waste glass has replaced quartz sand as the main component - at least in container glass production. Every glass bottle in Germany consists of around 60 percent recycled glass. Another advantage: Even the scrap can be reused by the manufacturers, whereby the required degree of purity is decisive here. That means colored glass is not suitable for the production of white glass, but ceramic shards or stones can also disrupt the production process.

Glass recycling and recovery rates for container glass: Figures on waste glass disposal in Germany

The development outlined above is then also reflected in the statistics. As an example, some figures for Germany from 2014: This year, over seven million tons of glass were produced nationwide. 54.2 percent of this was container glass, including waste glass.

  • Around 2 million tons of recycled glass are collected every year.
  • You can dispose of your old glass at over 300,000 container collection points and locations (glass containers and recycling centers) in Germany.
  • The proportion of recycled glass rose in the period from 2007 to 2013 from 83.7 to 88.7 percent.
  • Using one ton of recycled glass saves over 300 kg of CO2.

This is how glass production in Germany is composed

Since the beginning of the systematic collection of used glass in the 1970s, the proportion of container glass in glass production in Germany has steadily increased. Whereas the packaging ordinance of 1996 stipulated a recycling rate of at least 70% in this regard, a maximum of 91.2% was achieved in 2004. Although this has not quite been achieved since then, it leveled off at around 85% by 2015. Glass recycling definitely works. This is also proven by the quotas for the recycling of glass from used packaging since 2007, which the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) makes available on its website:

  • 2007: 83,70%
  • 2008: 82,20%
  • 2009: 82,50%
  • 2010: 86,00%
  • 2011: 88,40%
  • 2012: 84,70%
  • 2013: 88,70%
  • 2014: 89,00%
  • 2015: 85,20%

In this context, however, the UBA also points out that the statistical information on the recycling rates for broken glass containers after 2006 should be treated with caution. Up to 2006, all figures came from the Gesellschaft für Glasrecycling und Abfallvermenung mbH (GGA), whose prohibition under antitrust law meant that all later information on the recycling rates for used glass was now taken from various waste statistics and the annual surveys on the generation and recycling of packaging waste in Germany must be removed. Against this background, the exact developments or figures are likely to vary somewhat depending on the data used.

Conclusion: Checklist for correct glass recycling

With the correct disposal of old glass, you support the recycling process and thus actively contribute to climate protection. If you incorrectly dispose of your actually recyclable glass in the residual waste, 80 percent of this ends up in the incineration and is thus removed from the recycling cycle. So that you can dispose of your old glass in the correct container in the future, we will summarize the most important points about glass recycling for you:

  • Rule of thumb: Anything that does not fit through the opening of the waste glass container does not belong in there either.
  • The following types of glass come in waste glass containers: glass packaging and hollow jars for food (e.g. bottles and canning jars), pharmaceutical (e.g. medicine bottles) and cosmetic glass containers (cream jars, perfume bottles, etc.).
  • When throwing in, make sure that the glass remains separated by color. This is the only way to later produce new glass packaging in the respective color from the broken pieces. All glasses that cannot be clearly assigned to white, brown or green glass are put in the green glass container.
  • The hollow jars put in the old glass should be empty and without a cap. Lids, crown caps, etc. belong more in the yellow bin. A previous rinsing is not necessary.
  • Drinking glasses, porcelain, ceramics, earthenware, but also flat glass (window panes, windshields of motor vehicles, due to their different glass composition and the resulting higher melting point) do not belong in the waste glass container. They are foreign substances in the glass recycling cycle.
  • This also applies to all forms of light sources and energy-saving lamps. These belong in the residual waste or can be handed in at many collection points (drug and electronic stores, recycling centers, etc.).

Further details - also on other types of waste - can be found on our overview page "Which garbage in which bin?"

Further information on the subject of waste glass and glass recycling