It is a sad moment when a cherished piece of glassware breaks or cracks. It can no longer be used or displayed. Unfortunately, many people toss the pieces into the trash and forget about them. This is a problem because glass does not biodegrade. It sits in landfills and takes up space. There are estimates of up to a million years for a piece of glass to decompose, but these are only estimates. There are no examples of decomposed glass at this time for an accurate measurement of glass decomposition.
The reason glass is a material that does not readily decompose is because it is mostly made of silica sand. The sand is heated to extremely high temperatures, and other ingredients are added to stabilize and strengthen it. Once formed, the glass has a long life unless broken. It does not belong in a landfill, and glass can be easily recycled.
Recycled glass is to use it to make more glass. The high temperatures used to produce glass melt the silica sand component of glass, and they can be used to melt existing glass that is added to the mixture. This allows a sustainable way to continue to manufacture high quality glass for new uses. The temperature used to melt the sand component ensures that the impurities in the recycled glass will be burned off during manufacturing.
The world has learned that sustainability is important for future generations. Recycling glass is a vital step in this process. It keeps the landfills smaller and helps keep down the cost of raw materials in the glass making process. Glass can continually be recycled into new forms. This means that a million years from now a piece of glassware from today’s home might still be part of a new piece of glassware for the scientists investigating how long it takes glass to decompose.