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Glass Containers

More than half of the bottles produced in the United States are brown.

Glass containers are made from sand, limestone, soda ash, cullet (crushed bottles) and various additives, including those used to color brown, green or blue bottles.

More than half of the bottles produced in the United States are brown. Clear (also known as flint) bottles are the next largest in production. Most of the remainder are green with a small amount of blue or other colors.

In 2009, approximately 26 billion glass containers were made in the United States. Slightly more than 80 percent were beverage containers, of which almost three quarters were beer bottles. The rest were mostly food containers. Another five billion bottles are imported. Most of these are green or brown wine and beer bottles.

Glass container use in the United States increased by 3.8 million tons between 1960 and 2008. However, the glass container market share of MSW declined in the same time period by 40 percent as lighterweight aluminum and plastic containers replaced glass bottles.

Other glass products such as window glass, fiberglass, and glassware use different manufacturing processes and different additives than container glass. This profile excludes non-container glass.

Chaz Miller is state programs director for the National Solid Wastes Management Association, Washington. E-mail him at: [email protected].

Glass Containers MSW Facts

  • 10.05 million tons, or 4% of MSW by weight.
  • 66.1 pounds (lbs.) per person per year.
  • 132 bottles per person per year.
  • Average glass bottle weighs 8 oz.
  • 2.8 million tons or 28%.
  • Ten states require deposits on glass beverage containers.
  • Those states have the highest tonnages and percentages of glass bottles recycled.
Recycled Content:
  • 26% (U.S. produced bottles).
  • A glass bottle can have up to 70% recycled content.
Incinerated or Landfilled:
  • 7.24 million tons, or 4.3% of discarded MSW by weight.
  • Glass is inert in landfills.
  • Glass is non-combustible and generally forms a slag in incinerators.
Landfill Volume:
  • 5.5 million cubic yards, or 1.3% of landfilled MSW in 1997.
  • Landfilled glass bottles weigh 2,800 pounds per cubic yard (lbs./cu.yd.)
  • Loose glass bottles weigh 600 lbs./cu.yd.
  • Crushed bottles weigh 1,000 - 2,000 lbs./cu.yd.
Source Reduction:
  • Glass bottles were reduced in weight by more than 50% between 1970 and 2000.
  • Substituting plastic or aluminum containers for glass resulted in five million fewer tons of glass in the waste stream in 2000.
  • The majority of recovered glass is made into new glass bottles.
  • Fiberglass is the second largest market.
  • Other markets include abrasives, “glasphalt” for roads, glass beads for reflective paint and filler in storm and French drains.
  • A small amount is exported for recycling.
End Market Specifications:
  • ISRI Guidelines for Glass Cullet: GC-2009 cover color-specific specifications for container glass cullet.
  • Should be free of excess moisture.
  • Prohibited materials include non-container glass, metals, rocks and ceramic closures.


Current Industrial Reports, U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, www.census.gov

Glass Packaging Institute, Alexandria, Va., www.gpi.org

“Measurement Standards and Reporting Guidelines,” National Recyling Coalition, Washington, www.nrc-recycle.org

“Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures for 2008,” U.S. EPA, Office of Solid Waste, www.epa.gov/osw

“Scrap Specifications Circular 2009,” Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Washington, www.isri.org

*Data is from 2008 EPA estimates, except where noted.