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.

Approximately half of the bottles produced in the United States are clear (also known as flint) bottles, followed closely by brown bottles. Most of the remainder are green, with a small amount of blue or other colors.

In 2002, approximately 35 billion glass containers were made in the United States. Eighty percent were narrow neck bottles, used primarily for beverages. The remainder were wide mouth bottles used for food products. More than half a million tons of bottles, mostly green beer and wine bottles, were imported.

Glass bottle use in the United States increased by 5 million tons between 1960 and 2000. However, the glass container market share of municipal solid waste (MSW) declined during the same time period by 31 percent, as lighter weight aluminum and plastic containers replaced glass bottles.

Other glass products, such as window glass, fiberglass and glassware, use different manufacturing processes and have different additives than container glass.

This profile does not cover noncontainer glass.

Chaz Miller is state programs director for the Environmental Industry Associations, Washington, D.C. E-mail the author at:

Glass Containers Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) Facts:


  • 11.2 million tons or 4.8% by weight.*
  • 79.5 pounds per person per year.*
  • The average glass bottle weighs 8 oz.


  • 2.94 million tons or 26.3%.*
  • 10 states require deposits on glass beverage containers.

Recycled Content:

  • 26% U.S.-produced bottles.
  • A glass bottle can have up to 70% recycled content.


  • Glass does not compost.

Incinerated or Landfilled:

  • 8.2 million tons or 5.1% of discarded MSW by weight.*
  • Glass is inert in landfills.
  • Glass is noncombustible 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.
  • Loose glass bottles weigh 600 pounds per cubic yard.
  • Crushed bottles weigh 1,000 to 2,000 pounds per cubic yard.

Source Reduction:

  • Glass bottle weight was reduced by more than 50% between 1970 and 2000.
  • Substituting plastic or aluminum containers for glass resulted in 5 million fewer tons of glass in the waste stream in 2000 than in the past decade.

Recycling Markets:

  • 80% 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-2002 cover color-specific specifications for container glass cullet.
  • Should be free of excess moisture.
  • Prohibited materials include noncontainer glass, metals, rocks and ceramic closures.


Current Industrial Reports, U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, D.C.

Glass Packaging Institute, Alexandria, Va.

“Measurement Standards and Reporting Guidelines,” National Recycling Coalition, Washington, D.C.

Municipal Solid Waste In the United States: 2000 Facts and Figures, U.S. EPA, 2002.

Scrap Specifications Circular 2002, Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Washington, D.C.

*2000 EPA estimates.