Recycling products that you’re done with is always good – right? No! In the case of glass, recycling is a bit trickier.
Unfortunately a side effect of a fragile material such as glass is that it can break. It’s always a sad day when a pipe is broken but here’s what you need to know in order to pay proper respects to your fallen friend.
Consider this: with metal recycling, magnets can be used to automatically sort the contents of a recycling bin into different types of metal. There is no such trick with glass.
In order to understand why this is the case we have to know a little bit about different types of glass. While there’s many types of glass, we’re only going to focus on two: the most commonly found type of glass and the one used to make glass pipes.
The most commonly used type of glass is soda-lime glass. In fact, about 90% of glass products are made with this type. It is also known as “soft glass” and is the type of glass used to make bottles, jars, windows, and many other items. Soft glass can be re-softened and re-used many times which makes it the ideal choice for mass produced items that may only have a temporary usefulness.
Commonly called Pyrex (a branded version), borosilicate glass is widely used in scientific glassware where temperature and corrosion resistance are important. Glass must contain at least 5% boric oxide in it’s composition to be considered borosilicate. This type of glass must be tempered, which gives it strength that soft glass simply doesn’t have. Borosilicate is most commonly found in lightbulbs, laboratory equipment, cookware, and of course glass pipes.
But… it’s all just glass!
Even a tiny amount of borosilicate mixed in with a batch of soda-lime glass that is to be recycled can cause the ENTIRE batch of recycled glass to be ruined. Don’t be the one who makes your local recycling plant throw out a huge batch of melted down glass that could be reused instead of going to a landfill.
So, in the unfortunate event that a pipe of yours (or some Pyrex bakeware) breaks make sure you *carefully* place all of the pieces in the trash and NOT in glass recycling. You’re doing your local recycling center and the environment a favor!