overhead view of green glass bottles in a crate.
Glass Bottle and Jar Recycling

Glass Bottle and Jar Recycling and Disposal

Glass bottles and jars are used everywhere – from the kitchens in our homes to pubs, restaurants, hotels, and many other places. As glass is sealable, washable, and reusable, it makes a great, safe container for all sorts of food and drinks. Once used though, what should you do with empty glass bottles and jars?

Millions of UK households already reuse glass bottles and jars to store dried rice or pasta, or for arts and crafts resources. Glass bottle recycling is another good option favoured more by businesses with such glass waste. Find out all you need to know about disposing of these items in a sustainable way, including glass bottle recycling ideas for your home or business.

What glass bottles and jars 
can I recycle?

You can recycle almost all glass jars and bottles. This includes recycling glass bottles of any type and colour (wine bottles, beer bottles, spirit bottles, and milk bottles). You can also recycle glass jars (including those used for sauces, jam, and baby food).

Non-food glass bottles and jars are also recyclable. These include decorative jars and bottles, as well as those used to store perfume, face creams, and aftershave. Recycling glass bottles and jars prevents glass from entering our environment in dangerous forms and could be a huge help to saving natural habitats.

Are there any glass bottles 
you can’t recycle?

There are some bottles and jars you can’t recycle. These include:

  • Drinking glasses
  • Vases
  • Mirrors
  • Glass cookware (such as Pyrex and microwave plates)
  • Nail varnish bottles
  • Light bulbs and tubes
  • Ceramics (such as plates, bowls, and earthenware)

You can’t recycle these glass bottles and jars because they don’t melt at the same temperature as other glass bottles and jars. If you put these items in with glass recycling, it can mean the entire load is rejected. It can also mean new containers are vetoed.

Sometimes you can recycle these types of glass bottles and jars separately. Always check with your local council on their website or by telephone to determine the best way to recycle them if possible.

Learn about glass recycling

How do you recycle 
glass bottles and jars?

Check the recycling label first to ensure the type of glass bottle or jar is recyclable. The incorrect procedure could mean the entire load is rejected. However, the process to recycle glass bottles and jars is very simple:

  • Empty the glass bottle or jar – remove as much of the contents as you can, whether it held food, drinks, or some other substance.
  • Rinse it out – give it a quick rinse to help remove leftover liquid that will otherwise contaminate other recyclables and mean that they can’t be recycled. Especially for bottles and jars that contained perishable food or liquid, if you don’t wash it out first, your recycling may start to smell.
  • Keep all caps and lids on – these can usually be recycled too. By keeping them on the bottle or jar, it saves them from getting lost during the sorting process.
  • Remove any corks – always remove the corks from bottles because they can’t be recycled alongside glass. They can be composted – learn more about cork recycling.
one empty glass jar one with flour in and a wooden spoon.

What happens to glass bottles and jars 
during the recycling process?

There are a few steps to the glass recycling process when your old bottles and jars leave your home or business:

  • All glass bottles and jars collected are brought to a central recycling facility. Here they’re sorted before being transported to a glass treatment plant.
  • Glass goes through a pre-treatment process where any paper or plastic is removed with blown air, and metal objects are removed with magnets.
  • After this, the glass bottles and jars are sorted by colour. They’re then washed to remove any lasting impurities.
  • Next, the glass is crushed and melted according to colour to produce a product known as cullet.
  • This liquid glass is finally moulded into new bottles and jars, which are distributed to suppliers. They repackage the containers and send them out to retailers.

What are some problems with 
waste glass bottles and jars?

When glass is incorrectly disposed of, it often breaks. Sharp shards of glass from bottles and jars can be a major hazard to young children, pets, wildlife, and even plants. And if glass is thrown away with general waste it may end up in landfill, where it can take many years to break down.

What are some 
glass recycling facts?

A few key facts about recycling glass bottles and jars are that:

  • Unlike other materials, glass does not degrade during the recycling process, so it can be recycled over and over. It’s one of the most efficient forms of recycling for commercial waste.
  • Glass is one of the few materials with an almost 100% rate of recovery of the original material.
  • The UK currently recycles 70% of its glass packaging. That’s good but behind countries like Belgium and Sweden, who are already climbing up towards 95%. Let’s catch up – recycle your jars and bottles.
empty glass jar on its side with lid off.

Glass disposal

  • glass waste How do you dispose of glass in the UK?

    To dispose of glass in the UK from your home you should take it to your nearest bottle bank. Check your local council website for details of where the closest bottle bank is – they’re normally in council and supermarket car parks. Here you can dispose of and recycle glass bottles and jars of any colour.

    Alternatively, check if your local household waste recycling centre (HWRC) accepts glass for disposal and recycling. You can dispose of glass at most HWRCs, and it will be recycled. Some also accept broken glass bottles, jars, and panes.

  • glass waste How is glass waste disposed?

    Glass waste should be disposed of by being recycled. Clean and dry any glass bottles and jars to removed leftover food waste and other contaminants. At home or in the workplace you should store waste glass in a separate bin, then arrange collection by licensed waste carriers or take it to a local bottle bank or HWRC for glass waste disposal.

  • glass waste Can I put glass in a general waste bin in the UK?

    You should not put glass in a general waste bin in the UK. Most councils will accept and remove your domestic general waste bins if there’s glass in them, but it should be avoided as glass is 100% recyclable. Every year in the UK around 28 billion pieces of glass end up in landfill when disposed of with general waste.

    UK businesses should also avoid putting glass in a general waste bin, as they have a responsibility to reduce, reuse, and recycle as much commercial waste as possible. Any broken glass in a general waste bin can also harm those handling it. It’s safer, greener, and more responsible to recycle glass separately.

  • glass waste How do you dispose of large glass?

    Large shards and panes of glass from your home should be taken to your nearby HWRC for recycling. Any waste glass that doesn’t fit in a bottle bank can be recycled in the specific glass waste at a HWRC. Businesses can recycle large glass with the rest of their glass waste, as it’s sorted and checked before being recycled.

  • glass waste Can you take broken glass to a UK tip?

    You can take broken glass to your local tip or HWRC in the UK. Here it will be recycled alongside other types of glass waste. Glass is 100% recyclable and normally crushed down into small pieces during the process, so broken shards of glass are normally still recyclable.

Learn about more 
waste types

Find out more about other rubbish streams.

Read our guides to waste types
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