How green is glass?
When you encounter broken beer bottles on the footpath, park or beach, it is hard to think of glass as a ‘green’, environmentally-friendly product. In its fragmented state we rightly see it as even dangerous. And when a window breaks and someone gets cut from the falling fragments . . . well, the word ‘friendly’ doesn’t come to mind at all. In fact, given the above circumstances, the knee-jerk reaction is to see other container products such as plastics (polymers) as a better long-term choice for our planet – heaven forbid! Fortunately, most people know that it is some of us who are the problem and not glass (I am reminded of the “it’s the nut at the wheel – not the car” analogy in respect to bad driving).
One significant fact saves glass (as bottles) from the scrap-heap of history: glass is eminently recyclable – now, I am aware I could be opening a Pandora’s Box of debate on recycling here, but most empty glass bottles are economically recyclable, so I’ll move on – and, thanks to scientific advancements, we are now able to use glass as an energy-saving product.
It wasn’t so long ago that a glass window was the least energy-efficient component of a building. We’ve come a long way since then: double glazing, tinted glass, laminated glass combinations, conductive glass coatings and electric glass. It is not too far-fetched to claim now that glass – as used in the building industry – is a leading environmentally-friendly and energy-efficient product.
We still need to encourage the ‘nuts’ to stop breaking their bottles in order to clean up its general image, though it is a sad indictment on Australia that only two of its eight states and territories offers a refund on clean empty glass drinks bottles. Is it time for Australia to lift its game?