What is it?
Glass is everywhere and has a huge potential for reuse. Jars can be reused for canning food and holding just about anything while wine and spirit bottles make great vinegar dispensers and vases. Beer bottles are a glass success story. Since 1973, brown beer bottles can be returned to liquor stores across Saskatchewan which send them back to the brewer to be refilled. Clear and green beer bottles can be taken to SARCAN.
What is the issue?
Glass is durable and recycling it is an energy intensive process, making repurposing or reusing the most viable options. Glass in a single stream recycling system can be wasteful because it gets broken and contaminates other materials. Often broken glass cannot be captured in recycling systems, meaning it ends up in the landfill. Glass is inert and does not pose any health or environmental issues when thrown away but it is a major waste of a valuable resource.
Where can it go?
A large player in glass recycling in the province is SARCAN. SARCAN is contracted by the provincial government to handle beverage container glass – juice bottles, wine bottles, etc. These carry a deposit and a handling charge. Consumers can redeem their deposit when they return the glass container to a SARCAN depot. The program excludes non-beverage glass like pickle jars, spaghetti sauce jars and other household glass. Some depots accept this household glass, but it is explicitly excluded from the provincial contract and so it does not carry a deposit or a handling charge. As of 2021, household glass can be dropped off at all SARCAN locations in Saskatoon and Regina, but these items do not carry a deposit.
Some curbside programs and drop-off bins accept household glass. Check out our Waste Reduction Hub to find opportunities near you.
What happens after?
There is only one glass recycler in Saskatchewan. Potters Industries in Moose Jaw melts clear glass into beads of various sizes. The products vary depending on the size of the bead. Potters can only use clear, uncontaminated glass, which makes it difficult for programs that collect all colours together.
The fiberglass industry can use glass in any colour. Much of SARCAN's coloured glass goes to a processor in Alberta that prepares glass for the fibreglass market.
Glass is inert and so it can also be crushed and used as an aggregate in road building as a replacement for gravel.
How can I reduce?
Reuse jars or bottles for storing dry food or household items. Wine and beer bottles also make great vinegar dispensers. Glass jars make interesting plant pots as well.
Brown beer bottles that are returned to SARCAN or the liquor store are sent back to the brewer for reuse.
Consider plastic alternatives if you are not planning to use the product until the end of time. Be sure to recycle the plastic when you’re done with it!
For beer drinkers – consider beer on tap or look for microbrewers with a "growler" exchange or refill system.
Making your own beer or wine allows you to reuse the same bottles indefinitely.