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The short answer is yes, windshields can be recycled. This wasn’t always the case but technology developed in the past 20 years allows them to recycled.
Windshields and the Environment
When your windshield breaks, if the damage can’t be repaired, then it will need to be replaced completely with a new windshield. At one time, broken windshields ended up in landfills, but over the last decade many companies have begun to recycle auto glass.
The ability to recycle automotive glass may still be a fairly new endeavor, but the opportunity exists and continues to grow. And that glass doesn’t have to end up in a landfill.
Recycling glass from windshields is not all that hard, and it’s good for our environment. Because windshields typically are made with two layers of glass along with a plastic membrane, called PVB, in the middle, it used to be difficult to recycle the glass. Now machines are available to recycle all types of glass -including windshields.
How Auto Glass is Recycled
It’s not quite as simple as you might think; it’s a very different process than recycling glass bottles or containers, because most windshields are made from laminated glass. Laminated glass is manufactured by sealing two layers of glass together with a polyvinyl butyral (PVB) interlayer. The PVB interlayer is what helps the windshield to stay intact in the event of an accident and helps provide important structural support to your vehicle’s roof.
When windshields are recycled, though, that PVB must be separated from the glass. In most cases, the used windshields are first pulverized or crushed. After that, a machine separates the glass from the PVB. The glass is processed into something called “glass cullet,” which can be used in a variety of applications, such as concrete, fiberglass insulation, asphalt and more. The PVB also can be used for various adhesive applications.
Because this process is so difficult, many auto glass companies have entered into agreements with laminated recyclers to recycle windshields and subcontract their recycling after replacing the windshields.
Why Recycle Auto Glass?
Glass is one of the most adaptable substances on earth, with almost countless uses. Recycled windshield glass is no exception. It can be recycled into bowls, vases, bottles in the much the same manner as other recycled glass. Artists are also fond of using recycled glass to build mosaics, and some companies manufacture tiles and other household surfaces from recycled windshield glass.
A company in Columbia makes recycled windshields into very heavy wine glasses (available here). Some buildings today incorporate actual windshields into their designs, such as the Artists for Humanity Gallery in Boston, where recycled windshields have been repurposed into a decorative rail on its mezzanine.
How Do You Know Who Recycles?
Several auto glass companies have started their own windshield recycling program. JN Phillips anticipates saving 5 million pounds of glass and plastic from going to landfills annually. The website Glass.com shows a “we recycle” badge for auto glass companies that say they recycle windshields, a very helpful tool as you choose an auto glass service provider.
Your auto glass service provider should be able to tell you whether your windshield will be recycled or re-purposed. Use the glass.com auto glass locator service today to book your windshield replacement and learn more about auto glass recycling. Look for the “We Recycle” badge to see which shops are promoting their recycling efforts.