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How to Bring the Sparkle of Recycled Glass to Your Home

By Julia Pockett, Houzz

Although glass was once an expensive material used in very limited applications, today's large-scale manufacturing systems have made glass a huge part of our lives. Although its beauty is a welcome addition to the home, the negative side of this love affair is that without recycling, glass goes straight to the landfill when we're done with it. Although glass is inert and not directly hazardous to our planet, it remains in landfills indefinitely. 

The good news is that glass is recyclable — not just once, but on and on, without any degradation of the material. Consider some of these ideas for bringing the sparkle of recycled glass into your house.

glass bottles
West Elm, original photo on Houzz

The basics: Recycling reduces the amount of waste glass in landfills and the demand for raw materials quarried from the landscape. It also uses 50 percent less energy to recycle glass than to make new glass from sand, lime and soda.

Plus, the more cullett (crushed glass) used to make recycled glass, the lower the temperature the furnace needs to reach — and that prolongs the life of the furnace.

Contemporary Landscape, original photo on Houzz

Uses: Recycled glass countertops have made it easier to incorporate recycled glass in the home. They come as 100 percent recycled glass or as recycled glass blended with concrete or resin.

Recycled glass backsplashes, tiles, tableware, accessories and even chips (shown here in a landscape) can all be used to make your home and garden beautiful.

Related: Introduce Beautiful Recycled Glass Mosaics in the Home

kitchen counter
Woodmeister Master Builders, original photo on Houzz

Pros: Recycled glass can be colored and backlit, and can have various textured finishes applied, so the design choices are bountiful. More important, there is an expansive glass recycling culture in both the United Kingdom and the United States, which eliminates any need to buy recycled glass products from other countries if you live there; you won't trash its green credentials with unnecessary transportation.

Recycled glass is also durable. Glass is one of the few materials that can be recycled infinitely without its losing strength, purity or quality; recycled glass products are as durable as the original glass.

Bill Fry Construction - Wm. H. Fry Const. Co., original photo on Houzz

Cons: There are very few cons to recycled glass, with the exception of the high cost of some products. Do your research — recycled glass tableware is often reasonably priced, but recycled glass building materials can get expensive.

glass counter
Latera Architectural Surfaces / Dorado Stone, original photo on Houzz

Considerations: Glass chip-based products rely on concrete or a resin-binding material. The recycled content of these blended work surfaces ranges from 70 to 85 percent.

Environmentally, it takes a lot of energy to extract the raw materials and produce the cement. Resin, in most cases, is a petrochemical product derived from a nonrenewable resource (unless it's formulated from plant-based sources). For concrete mixes, look for recycled concrete. However, transportation costs for this heavy material can be high, both environmentally and financially.

Related: Home Interiors That Shine

recycled glass
Shannon Malone, original photo on Houzz

Upcycling: In the United Kingdom we import more green and brown glass than we can recycle, so we ship green crushed glass back to Portugal for recycling. Since colored glass has to be separated from clear glass in the recycling process, consider upcycling those wine bottles intact — as in this innovative light fixture.

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