Glass Pollution: An Emerging Threat to Environment -Nazmunnaher Nipa


Environmental pollution is one of the most serious problems confronting humanity today. The presence of specific types and concentrations of physical, chemical, or biological agents in the environment that are harmful to the health, safety, and well-being of humans, plants, and animals is defined as a global problem. According to the World Health Organization, 1.3 million people die each year as a result of high-level contaminating agent exposure. Glass contamination did not receive much attention until recently, but as the use of glass grows, so does its disposal.
Glass is defined as any amorphous transparent or translucent material composed of a silicate mixture and produced inherently by fusion and eventual solidification from the molten state (of these silicates) in the absence of crystallization. The main component of glass is a silicate, and the most common source of silicate backbone in commercial glass manufacturing is sand (SiO2).
Glass is made from silica, fine sand that has been broken down by water and wind over millions of years. Sand mining is disastrous for local ecosystems because it destroys local fish breeding grounds and sand bars that provide food for birds and seals. Sand dredging shrink’s beaches and has even resulted in bridge collapses.
Nano/microplastic pollution is currently receiving a lot of attention from scientists and researchers. Plastic and glass pollution are both considered to be the worst in the current situation. Because glass is infinitely recyclable, it never loses its quality or purity no matter how many times it is recycled.
Other raw materials (including recycled materials) are added for a variety of reasons, depending on the desired finished product, such as lead oxide (PbO) to increase refractivity and boron oxide (B2O3) to reduce thermal expansion and produce borosilicate glass.

Glasses are made, used and discarded in the terrestrial environment, where they interact with the flora and fauna. The majority of glass ever produced may be “environmentally available,” and agricultural soils may be capable of storing more micro/nano glass than oceanic basins.
Collisions alone kill one billion birds in the United States. Building collisions kill billions of birds each year. Every year, up to one billion birds are killed in this manner in the United States alone, while the British Trust for Ornithology estimates that windows cause 100 million bird collisions in the United Kingdom. One-third of these result in death. Bird-window collisions, as they are known, are becoming more common. New York City passed Local Law 15, which updated building codes to make new glass structures safer for birds.
CO is released during the melting process as a result of the combustion of natural gas/fuel oil and the decomposition of raw materials. This is the only greenhouse gas emitted during the glass manufacturing process. Sulphur dioxide (SO) from sulphate decomposition in batch materials can contribute to acidification. Nitrogen oxides (NO) contribute to acidification and smog formation due to high melting temperatures and in some cases, nitrogen compound decomposition in batch materials. Evaporation of molten glass and raw materials can result in particle release into the atmosphere.

Glass Recycling:
Recycled glass is crushed and turned into a cullet, which can be used to make new glass products. However, the amount of glass recycled into new glass bottles is determined by how well the various colors and types of glass were separated during the collection and recycling process. Glass is completely recyclable and can be recycled indefinitely with no loss of quality or purity.
Glass is made from readily available domestic materials such as sand, soda ash, limestone, and “cullet,” which is the industry term for furnace-ready recycled glass.
Sand is the only material used in greater quantities than a cullet. These materials are mixed, or “batched,” and then heated to 2600 to 2800 degrees Fahrenheit before being molded into the desired shape.
Recycled glass can replace up to 95 percent of raw materials.
Recycled glass reduces emissions and raw material consumption increases the life of plant equipment such as furnaces and saves energy.
Glass manufacturers require high-quality recycled container glass to meet market demand for new glass containers, so recycled glass containers are always in demand.

Statistics on Glass Recycling
Glass bottles and jars are completely recyclable and can be recycled indefinitely with no loss of purity or quality. According to the US EPA, 39.6 percent of beer and soft drink bottles were recovered for recycling in 2018, 39.8 percent of wine and liquor bottles and 15.0 percent of food and other glass jars were recycled.
33.1 percent of all glass food and beverage containers were recycled in total.
Each year, the container and fiberglass industries buy 3.35 million tons of recycled glass, which is remelted and repurposed for the production of new containers and fiberglass products, Precision Consulting, NAIMA (Sources)
According to the Container Recycling Institute, states with container deposit legislation have an average glass container recycling rate of just over 63 percent, while non-deposit states only reach about 24 percent.
Beverage container deposit systems provide 11 to 38 times more direct jobs than beverage container curbside recycling systems. (Source: The Container Recycling Institute, “Returning to Work: Understanding the Job Impacts of Different Beverage Container Recycling Methods”).
About 18% of beverages are consumed on-premise, such as in a bar, restaurant, or hotel. And glass accounts for roughly 80% of the container mix.

Therefore, Recycled glass is always part of the glass recipe, and the more of it that is used, the less energy is used in the furnace. This makes the recycled glass more profitable in the long run, lowering costs for glass container manufacturers while also benefiting the environment. We need to work nationally and internationally to protect our nature and environment from glass pollution.

The author of this article is a student, Dept. of Environmental Science and Engineering, Jatiya Kabi Kazi Nazrul Islam University, she can be reached at