Recycled glass goes into everything from dishware to building insulation and is a significant part of the recycling market. Glass recycling in America has been up and down, but the growing demand for recycled glass for fiberglass is renewing the industry.
While there are multiple forms of recycled glass, glass grinded into sand-like shards – called cullet – is perfect for one specific growing industry: fiberglass. There is a strong appeal for fiberglass so it should come as no surprise that billions of pounds of crushed glass are used every year for residential, commercial and industrial fiberglass applications. This can include the creation of everyday items like automobiles, boats, televisions, computers, bathtubs, and most commonly insulation.
Recycled glass is usually the most cost-effective form of glass for producing fiberglass.
So naturally, fiberglass producers are creating a strong demand for glass cullet. However, the current recycling market is running into complications that make glass recycling more expensive than it used to be. This is because glass now comes to the recycling centers mixed with large amounts of trash such as plastic caps and metal pieces.
Why is glass more contaminated these days? The biggest factor is America’s single-stream recycling method; putting glass, plastic, and paper all into one recycling bin. This is easier for the consumer but makes for expensive processing for recyclers who often receive glass contaminated with shredded paper, takeout containers and more. All of these contaminants require high-end equipment and multiple processes to sort efficiently. Once recyclers finally sort out all of the trash, the glass requires more processing to meet fiberglass demands.
Fiberglass end-users have strict needs and specifications but consistency is the main key that the fiberglass industry desires. Consistency includes moisture level, size of grain, color distribution, and level of contaminants. Reaching the ideal consistency requires investments in the proper equipment.
Despite product consistency challenges, with the right equipment investment, recycled glass can be the best and most affordable option for fiberglass manufacturers. Meaning glass recyclers who invest in the business can likely turn a profit.
Companies like General Kinematics help recyclers figure out the right tools and provide high-quality machinery to get the job done. With the growing demand for recycled glass in fiberglass, once the equipment investment has been made, recyclers are expected to see a steady return.