Glass – Environmental Friend or Enemy
Offering a large purpose with little consideration, glass is a key ingredient in many of our everyday products. Tableware, light bulbs, mirrors, stove tops, windshields, home windows: the list is large for some thing not given a second thought. Friend or foe, we need to consider the implications of glass making on the environment.
The ‘What Is’ of Cup
Glass is a combination of three varieties of substances that occur naturally within North America;
silica, the most popular being white sand
alkali, such as sodium bicarbonate
Sometimes a metallic oxide (lead) is added to the mix. Depending on which alkali is used plus whether or not lead is added, the clarity or color cast from the glass changes. The expense of producing and the quality of the glass is determined by the choice of alkali and the percentage used, combined with the choice and percent of silica used.
The ‘How’ of Glass Production
A silica, an alkali and limestone are usually first crushed into a powder form, sifting out any coarse particles. They are then blended and put in to a furnace at an extremely high temperature for as long as 24 hours. This yields molten cup which is then cooled several hundred degrees resulting in a thick liquid. The particular resulting matter is called frit which is then blown, pressed, drawn, molded or rolled into glass items. If the glass is to be molded the particular molds are also heated at hot temperature so the liquid poured into them does not wrinkle. The cooling process involves washing with water.
Environment Impact of Glass Production
The process of making new glass is not at all environmentally friendly. The initial crushing and grinding phase sends particulates of metals, chemicals, acids and dust into the surroundings. These are easily inhaled causing discomfort to the nose and throat, potentially causing damage to the lungs. The particular particles of metals are dangerous to the environment as they can find their own way into surrounding soil and water.
The need for extremely high temperature furnaces to melt the mixture of elements makes the melting stage of the cup making process very energy intensive. It is estimated to take 15. 2 million BTUs of energy to produce one ton of glass. During any one of the formation processes the glass may need to become reheated to keep it in liquid form. This means the heat in the furnace should be kept up until the process is complete.
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Discharges from the glass making process might find their way into the aquatic atmosphere during the cooling and cleaning processes where the most significant amounts of water are used. Discharges may contain some pieces of glass, some soluble used in the availability like sodium sulfate, lubricant oil used in the cutting process, blended salts and water treatment chemical substances.
Glass manufacturing processes also emit a significant amount of greenhouse gases especially carbon dioxide. Additionally , the processes throw out air-polluting compounds like nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and particles.
Benefits of Glass
Glass is nonporous making it impermeable to other substances. Because of this glass is a very hygienic surface as any bacteria and germs that come in contact are not absorbed into its framework. Glass surfaces take to strong cleansing with a disinfectant and hot water with no effect on its quality. For this reason glass containers can be easily reused often over.
The impermeableness of its construction eliminates any interaction with the stored contents. This, along with glass being made from nontoxic raw materials, dismisses area of issue leaching chemicals into the contained substances. In the case of food storage, this also protects the freshness and uncompromised flavor of the stored substance. Glass storage containers also do not absorb the scents of the foods in or around them.
In contrast to other materials, glass used in the micro wave does not leach any toxins into contained foods or liquids. Nor does it stain, corrode or deteriorate no matter how many times it is reused.
Glass dishes and containers are very flexible as they can go from freezer in order to microwave or oven. Glass is extremely attractive looking beautiful on desk top or as decorative items like candy dishes, storage cisterns, vases and mirrors.
And glass is 100% recyclable.
Turning Enemy into Friend
Many manufacturers have got put into place practices to reduce the bad environmental impact of glass making. Consideration has been given to use of more effective furnaces to cut energy use, producing thinner glass to employ lower temperatures and reduce transport costs, use of air flow and water purification systems, plus use of recycled glass to make new.
Here are some ways to reduce the environmental effects and still enjoy the benefits of glass products.
Reuse glass food and storage containers. Due to its natural properties there is no chemical reaction with the glass container and its contents. Cup items at home can be safely used over and over with no loss in the high quality of the glass.
Recycle. Glass is definitely 100% recyclable and can be reused to make new glass. Unlike other types of materials, the reuse associated with glass in no way degrades the ethics of the material. Glass can be melted and reused over and over again. A cup bottle ending life in a landfill can take one million years to breakdown. But a recycled cup bottle has about a 30 day turnaround time from recycle bin to as being a new bottle on a store shelf. Every ton of glass which is recycled saves more than a ton of the raw materials needed to create new glass. Because cullet (glass pieces to get reuse) melts at a much lower heat range, making glass products from cullet consumes 40 percent less power than making new glass from raw materials.