Is there a limit to the number of times a glass bottle can be recycled? Yes and no. Most glass bottles can be recycled over and over without a loss in quality or purity. The ingredients are typically sand, soda ash and limestone -- the recycling industry calls this furnace-ready glass "cullet" -- and the bottles are heated to about 2,800 degrees Fahrenheit and molded into whatever shape is needed.
But a lot more recycling can be done, since only about 40% of beer and soft drink bottles are taken to recyclers each year. The numbers are even lower for wine and liquor bottles (only about 34% are returned) and other food-related bottles and jars (just about a 15% return rate). Other kinds of glass -- windows, ovenware, crystal, etc. -- cannot be added to the recycling mix because they will produce defective containers.
More on glass recycling:
- Color sorting does make a difference. Green, clear and brown bottles must be separated before being re-manufactured so industry color standards can be met.
- If there are too many contaminants in the glass, it can be reused in other ways, ending up in tile, filtration fabrics, sand blasting and pavements.
- Curbside collection can bring in large amounts of glass recyclables, but drop-off stations and commercial programs tend to recover higher quality containers.