How is Glass Recycled?

Recycling Rules

What happens after mixed recycling gets tossed into your bin? Let’s walk through the recycling process for glass:

1. Collection

Waste Haulers collect mixed recycling materials, also known as single stream, from homes and businesses. In Sioux Falls, there are over 20 licensed waste haulers, so you have a wide selection to choose from for who picks up your trash and recycling (see a list of local haulers). After the material is picked up by your hauler, it is brought to Millennium Recycling (If you don’t have a waste hauler you can also bring it directly to the public dropoff bin).

Glass bottles and jars of any color are accepted in your bin, just make sure they are empty of liquid and food residue (but they don’t have to be spotless). *NOTICE* Glass is not accepted by all haulers or cities, check with your service provider for specific glass requirements.

2. Sorting

At Millennium, the mixed recyclables are dumped into a huge pile and a team member checks to make sure no large, bulky items are in the mix that could damage the equipment or hurt employees (i.e. tires, metal chunks, wood pieces, etc).

The materials are moved onto a conveyor belt where workers manually pull out the plastic bags. Other items like cardboard and paperplastic and metal continue on to be separated automatically.

Throughout the entire process, glass bottles and jars are intentionally broken down using “breakers” along the line to create shards of glass small enough to fall below and land on a separate conveyor belt that moves the material into its own holding space. Millennium then transports the glass to a specialized glass processor in Minnesota.

3. Cleaning 

At the glass processing facility, the material is moved through screens to clean out any food, plastic or paper and magnets to pull out metal caps, lids, small cans, and other pieces of metal.

4. Sorting by Color

Next, optical sorting machines are used to identify different colors, using air jets to blow and separate the different types.

6. Finishing

The clean glass is mixed with soda ash, sand and limestone and melted down to be molded into new products such as bottles and jars as well as used in different forms in the fiberglass industry.

For some great visuals of this process, check out this article!