In addition to its unique physical properties, glass has another unique characteristic. It is one of a very few materials that is infinitely recyclable, and repeated recycling has no impact on either its quality or its purity. A glass beverage container can follow three paths once it has fulfilled its original purpose. It can: (a) be cleaned, reused and repurposed as a container, and refilled with similar or new contents, (b) be recycled and transformed into cullet, i.e. crushed glass of uniform color intended for reuse in the manufacture of new glass containers or fiberglass, or (c) downcycled and used in secondary applications, like golf bunker sand, tiles and countertops or as a component in ceramic bath fixtures.
Other uses for downcyled glass include, among others :
With regards to manufacturing new glass containers, almost ALL manufacturers use some percentage of cullet as a primary ingredient in addition to the typical raw materials. Doing so reduces energy requirements, which leads to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and extends the life of the manufacturer's furnace. All told, utilizing recycled glass requires only 68% of the energy and half of the water typically required in the glass manufacturing process.
The energy saved by the recycling of just one glass bottle is sufficient to power a typical desktop computer for 30 minutes, or a household 60-watt light bulb for four hours.
Recycle five glass containers, and the energy saved would run that same computer for an hour and forty minutes, or light a compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulb for two days!