How to Recycle Colored Glass

Here's a simple guide to recycling your glass items of various colors so that they don't end up in a landfill.

By Maryruth Belsey-Priebe

Fact checked by Sander Tamm

Recycling Colored Glass
Recycling Colored Glass / Sander Tamm / Ecolife

Pretty blue glass bottles and fun green glass bottles add interest to our experience of glass, but recycling colored glass with clear glass can be an economic hazard. That’s because mixing different colors of glass in the recycling process can diminish the quality of recycled glass. Find out why separating colored glass from clear glass is important and how to go about doing it.

Differences between various colors of glass

Though the basic glass recipe is similar across all types of glass, various types of glass are made with additional ingredients to impart various qualities, such as color, reflectivity, and so on. But because of these variable ingredients, certain types of glass have to be recycled separately from conventional glass. Colored glass is one such type of glass that requires special handling. Here’s why:

  • Recycling blue glass: Made with naturally-occurring iron impurities in sand, blue glass is used for food and beverage containers as well as glass for home design (tiles, flooring, stained glass, etc).
  • Recycling brown glass: The brown color found in this glass type is a result of things like carbon, nickel, and sulphur which is added to molten glass. Brown glass is used to make many food containers to protect what’s inside from direct exposure to sunlight. This preserves flavor and freshness, so is often used for things like beer and food that would easily oxidize in the presence of sunlight.
  • Recycling clear glass: Made with the basics of glass – sand, limestone, and so on – clear glass can be used for a wide variety of products, including food and beverage containers, electronics, home design products, and more.
  • Recycling green glass: Like brown glass, green glass is created by adding ingredients to the molten glass, including copper, iron, and chromium. It also protects its contents from exposure to sunlight and extremes of temperature and so green glass is often used for food and drink preservation.

How to recycle colored glass

  1. Separate your colored glass. Curbside recycling programs often require that you sort colored glass from clear glass and separate your glass items by color. Check with your local recycling program office to find out whether you need to separate your colored glass from clear glass and then follow their recommendations.
  2. Use your curbside recycling program. After separation, recycle your colored glass items according to the local instructions. While not ideal, if the instructions don’t specify how to handle colored glass, recycle the colored glass together with your other glass items.
  3. Find a colored glass recycler. If your curbside program does not accept colored glass for recycling, look for another provider willing to accept blue, brown, and green glass for recycling. In some cases, by taking your used beer, soda, and wine bottles to these drop-off centers, you’ll be able to collect a deposit, which makes your recycling efforts somewhat profitable. 
  4. Reuse colored glass: This is optional, but if there’s no company in your area that recycles your colored glass, first be sure to minimize your consumption of colored glass, and then find ways to reuse it. For instance, you could make your own wine and bottle it in blue glass. Or create crafts using colored glass containers. Use old colored jars to can fresh produce, and more! 

Things you should not include with your clear glass recycling

Though there are many types of glass that can be recycled – both colored and clear – some glass types cannot be recycled with your regular curbside glass recycling. 

When “contaminants” are mixed in with glass to be recycled, it can decrease the value of the recovered glass, increase costs, slow production, reduce quality, and damage recycling equipment. As a result, you should not only remove metal and plastic lids and neck rings from your glass containers, but also be sure to keep the following types of glass out of your regular recycling bin:

  • Ceramic dishes and coffee cups
  • Clay gardening pots
  • Drinking glasses, including crystal and opaque glasses
  • Heat resistant glass cookware such as Pyrex or Visionware
  • Laboratory glass
  • Light bulbs (incandescent and compact fluorescents)
  • Window glass and mirrors