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Glass was first made around 3500 BC in Egypt and Eastern Mesopotamia. For the next several thousand years, artisans perfected the arduous task of glass making. Today, you can buy glass products almost anywhere. They are affordable, and glass designs range from incredibly simple to very intricate and elaborate.
For the most part, glass is relatively good for the environment, although it isn’t perfect. Here’s everything you need to know about your favorite wine glasses or windows looking out onto your garden or cityscape.
Naturally Made, Easily Recycled
Source: How To Make Everything/Youtube
Glass is made from natural materials like sand, soda ash, and limestone. These materials are abundantly available, which minimizes glass’s carbon footprint. Plastic, on the other hand, is made from non-renewable fossil fuels. So glass is significantly more eco-friendly.
Sometimes, material may only cause environmental harm once it breaks down and releases gases into the atmosphere. Luckily, disintegrating sand is safe and stable in all forms, making it a perfect Cradle to Cradle material.
A Cradle to Cradle certification is given to “products that are safe, circular and responsibly made.” Out of all the sustainability certifications out there, the Cradle to Cradle certification is the best one out there.
According to the EPA, around a third of the glass generated annually in the United States is recycled. The United States has done a great job increasing the amount of glass it recycles. However, about 7.5 million tons of glass still end up in landfills annually.
The good news is that glass is quite easy to recycle. Recycling a single glass bottle saves enough energy to power a 100-watt light bulb for four hours.
The Not So Good
Unfortunately, glass isn’t perfect– it’s certainly a better option than plastic.
When left to decompose in a landfill, glass takes at least 4,000 years to break down. While glass manufacturing is relatively eco-friendly, letting it rot for several millennia is not. This highlights how essential it is to recycle your glass products. Otherwise, you risk abandoning the potential benefits of glass.
Because glass is made from melted sand, soda ash, or limestone, modern-day melting techniques can cause environmental harm. Carbon is emitted into the atmosphere during the melting process, which contributes to glass’s carbon footprint. However, this is the only greenhouse gas emitted during production. Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides in the fuel or batch materials can contribute to acidification. Finally, when molten glass and other raw materials evaporate, particles of glass are released into the atmosphere.
Glass or Plastic?
The debate on whether glass is better than plastic is still ongoing. Some argue that because glass uses fossil fuels to melt natural materials, it’s equally as destructive as plastic. Others insist that since glass is far more recyclable, it has a better chance of being turned into a new product when chucked into a recycling bin, especially since not all plastic is recyclable.
At the end of the day, glass products last longer and have the potential to be reused and recycled over and over again. The United States still has a long way to go when it comes to recycling glass, but at least they can, which is more than can be said about plastic products.
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