Materials Matter: Recycled Glass for Urban (re)Development
Glass can be recycled endlessly with no loss in quality or purity, yet many U.S. cities and counties are ending curbside glass collection programs because of high costs and minimal market value. We need cities to “value” recycled glass again: How might public officials, city planners, urban engineers, and others leverage recycled multi-colored glass for more sustainable cities and urban systems?
How can cities leverage recycled glass? Help us explore solutions for how recycled, multi-colored glass could be used as permanent and visible solutions in our cities, specifically for urban infrastructure, industry or planning purposes.
To find new "homes" for recycled glass while solving fundamental urban infrastructure needs and challenges. We're seeking ideas which unleash the unmet potential of glass by devising and producing a set of sustainable, human-centered, and financially-viable solutions for recycled, colored, mixed glass in cities.
Understanding the Challenge:
The United States is falling behind in glass recycling innovation and efficacy; glass is one of the least recycled common materials on the U.S. market, and many cities are ending curbside collections of glass. Why? Glass recycling is a complex issue, with many stakeholders and considerations.
Key to this challenge is an understanding of the recycling industry and three-mix glass cullet. Here are a few important things to know:
Recycling is much more than a philanthropic issue – it's an economic motivator. In order for goods to be recycled, it needs to make financial sense.
One primary objective of recycling is to turn one old item into a nearly identical new item. For example, recyclers work to turn one old, clear glass bottle into a new, clear glass bottle. However, an old, clear glass bottle cannot be turned into a new brown or green glass bottle. Glass cannot change colors during the recycling process.
Most commonly, glass is not sorted by color when it is recycled, and is broken down into a fine substance known as cullet. In the case of unsorted glass, this cullet is known as three-mix glass. Three-mix glass is especially difficult for recyclers to resell, because it contains clear, green and brown glass mixed together, and cannot be used to remake products the same way as pure colored glass.
If we do not create a demand or sustainable use for three-mix recycled glass, it will go to waste in landfills, and people will keep making new glass, which are not sustainable options.