You’ve done your homework and researched the educational content here on glass.com and now you’re ready—ready to buy new windows for your home. Congratulations on a purchase decision that can pay you back in reduced heating and cooling costs, as well as a more comfortable living environment. Now, you may be wondering, what should you do with the old windows in your home? Here’s what not to do: don’t just toss them out with the garbage. There are many options for both recycling and reusing old windows. But how do you start to recycle old glass windows?
Before You Begin
Keep this in mind: Paint in homes built before 1978 may contain lead-based paint, a leading cause of lead poisoning in children. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires anyone renovating houses built before 1978 to take steps to reduce the dust generated when the paint is disturbed. This is because it may contain lead from the lead-based paint. The Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule affects renovations — including door and window replacements — that disturbs more than six square feet of a pre-1978 home’s interior. These renovations must follow rigorous and costly work practices to protect residents from exposure to lead, which can be especially dangerous for young children. The work must be supervised by an EPA-certified renovator and performed by an EPA-certified renovation firm. You can learn more by reading “Lead Paint and Window Replacement: What You Need to Know.”
You will also need to give special attention to the disposal of your old windows if they contain lead paint. Dispose of any construction material that contains lead paint —including windows and doors—as household hazardous waste at a local solid waste facility.
Where to Recycle Old Windows
Building Materials Reuse Centers
If lead paint isn’t a concern, there are a number of options for recycling your old windows.
Most recycling centers probably won’t take the glass in the windows, but with a little work, you’ll find you have a number of options.
Start by separating the recyclable glass from glass that is trash. You can trash any glass that has cracks, chips or holes. You can also trash badly soiled or stained glass that you can’t get clean. Read more about how to dispose of glass safely here.
To remove the non-recyclable glass, cover it with a towel and use a hammer to chip it out. Be sure and wear safety goggles and gloves whenever you’re working with glass.
Once your windows are ready, search your area for building materials reuse centers that accept used building materials, rather than sending them to a landfill. The Building Material Reuse Association maintains a directory that you can search to find a center near you. But check in advance to ensure they accept windows.
Recycling with Non-Profits
You might also find there are stores in your area that accept donations of used buildings materials. One example is Habitat for Humanity, which has more than 500 ReStores nationwide. As with building material reuse centers, you will want to call in advance to make sure they accept windows. Also, be sure to request a receipt, as you can write your donation off on your taxes.
But What About the Glass?
While glass bottles and containers are highly recycled, that’s not the case for window glass, which is very different. The two types of glass have different chemical compositions and melting temperatures, which means they can’t be recycled together. Bottles and containers are fairly consistent, window glass is more complex. Window glass is often coated or tinted. Also, depending on the application where it’s used, it could be laminated or tempered glass. The many different types of window glass cannot be combined in the recycling process.
However, while window glass may not be recycled easily, there are many options for keeping it out of the landfill. For example, it can be melted and re-manufactured into fiberglass, incorporated into asphalt, and even combined into reflective yellow and white road paints. Broken glass can be combined with concrete to create terrazzo flooring and countertops. Some companies even use old glass for landscaping materials and other decorative applications.
You can also check with local art schools, as you may be able to donate it to artists who work with glass.
If you’re a creative person, there are plenty of fun ideas for re-purposing and re-using your old windows. These can form the basis of many interior decorating projects, as well as some for the outside. A quick search through Pinterest for re-used old windows will generate hundreds of inspirational ideas. Here are just a few you can try:
- Hang an old window on the wall as an art piece;
- Replace the glass with mirror and hang in the bathroom or any area where you’d like a mirror;
- Attach hooks to the frame and hang by the door, creating a place for keys, coats, bags, etc.
- Place photos inside the divided panes for a unique collage;
- Mount a thick piece of wood to the frame for a window display shelf;
- Use chalkboard paint on the glass to create a place to write notes, lists, etc.
You can also use old windows to build a greenhouse for your plants. The possibilities go on, limited only by your creativity and imagination.
In With the New
Updating your home’s windows is a smart move that will pay you back in the way of improved heating and cooling bills. You’ll also enjoy a more comfortable interior environment. But your old windows don’t need to end up in the trash. There are many options to re-use and recycle. Whether you choose to donate or re-purpose your old windows, your new window installer can also be a good source of information. Some companies may even have their own recycling programs or can direct you to ones in your area. They may also be able to suggest other re-use options. Whatever you decide, Glass.com can help guide your search for qualified glass shops in your area. You can compare offerings from multiple companies and request quotes from as many as you wish. Before you know it you’ll be enjoying the view through your new windows.