Glass recycling is a widely spread practice. In many countries, and especially in big cities, there are organizations dedicated to the collection of glass waste and their later shipping to glass factories. As a consequence of the oil crisis of the 70’s, glass recycling largely grew due to the energy shortage.
Most part of this glass fragments come from glass bottles, both from those who have finished their reuse cycle and the so called “one-way”. Currently, millions of tons are recycled monthly all over the world, and the percentage of recycled glass in the furnace load is usually above 50%. However, it is worth mentioning that this practice has always been common and it is a necessary procedure in the manufacturing of glass, as it is with many other materials.
Glass manufacturing dates from the third millennium b.C, when artisans in Babylon and other major ancient Mesopotamia cities melted enamels separately from the body of the pottery: by doing so, they were obtaining the first glass objects. With time, the technique for manufacturing glass (moulded, sand core and later blow) spreads through Egypt, Greek and the Mediterranean area, later originating the significant manufacturing of glass in Ancient Rome. Manufacturing glass, was, since its beginnings, a difficult task and glass objects were highly appreciated, almost as much as precious stones. Glass objects were used to keep ointments, and priced oils, also as costly gifts and ritual objects.
Archaeological studies have shown that pieces of unsuccessfully molten glass or broken glass objects were collected for new fusions, thus saving raw materials and work. This was a common practice for every precious material, such as bronze or metals in general; iron spears and swords were recouped from the battle fields to be re-used or molten.
The recycling of materials started alongside its manufacturing process. With the arrival of the Industrial Revolution, the practice continued in a more organized fashion.
In picture 1, the Diderot-D’Alembert Encyclopaedia, shows in an idealized engraving the selection of glass pieces for its recycling in the 18th century. In big cities, there were people who bought containers bottles and other discarded materials and move them to the manufacturing plants. (In Argentina, these were called “botelleros” or “bottle collectors”, because they picked up mainly glass bottles).
Currently, in many countries there are civil organizations and organized companies that are dedicated to the collections of glass waste, and its shattering, selection and washing process.
This practice has been brought to a high level of development and technology and is recognized as absolutely necessary for the economy of process, both for the saving of raw materials and energy consumption.
Recycled glass is then just another raw mineral material, which must comply with the same requirements and specifications as other raw materials.
It is clear so far that the recycling of glass has been a common practice since early times, essential for the economy and of the whole process.
Glass Recycling Plant
CAFAVI (Cámara Argentina de Fabricantes de Vidrio) – Author: Dr. Eduardo Mari. Dr. Eduardo Mari was Director of CIDEMAT (Centro de Investigación y Desarrollo de Materiales) which belongs to the INTEMIN (Instituto Nacional de Tecnología Minera)
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