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Windshield Glass Recycling

What happens to your windshield after it has been replaced?

windshield recycling

If your windshield breaks and the damage can’t be repaired, you’ll have to get it replaced. Fortunately, windshield replacement can be done quickly and effectively – if you get the right auto glass shop to do it for you.

Once you’re ready to drive again, you may be too focused on your pristine new windshield and clear view to think about the old auto glass left behind. But what happens to a windshield once it’s replaced is critically important to our environment.

When does my windshield need to be replaced?

Any damage to your windshield should be repaired as soon as possible. Chips and cracks can quickly spread and interfere with your view of the road and jeopardize the vehicle’s structural integrity.

Depending on the size and severity of the damage, the windshield may not be repairable and will have to be replaced.

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What happens to your old windshield after it has been replaced?

Developments in technology over the years have turned windshield recycling into a rather efficient process. That said, recycling a windshield isn’t as simple as recycling a glass bottle. This is because windshields are not only made of glass. Instead, they are comprised of two glass panels bound together by a thin layer of polyvinyl butyral (PVB) in between. PVB is a resin used to strongly bond materials together.

Once your windshield is replaced, the old windshield will usually be sent to a third party recycling company. Here, the windshield’s glass and PVB are separated. The materials are then broken down into cullet (recycled waste glass made in glassmaking). This cullet is sold to manufacturers to be repurposed.

Why is recycling glass so important?

Recycling windshields can reduce landfill waste, improve climate problems, save energy and improve the economy.

For every six tons of recycled glass, one ton of carbon dioxide is reduced. Since 2012, Safelite has recycled 107,000 tons of glass.

To put this number in context, it would be the same as eliminating 3,417 vehicles from the road, the emissions of 1.8 million gallons of gasoline or the emissions from 1,708 homes’ energy for one year.

Furthermore, glass manufacturing is an energy-intensive process that involves gas combustion and electricity. Recycling a windshield would eliminate the need for this environmentally hazardous energy.

windshield glass recycling

How much glass is recycled in the U.S.?

Recycled glass can be substituted for up to 95% of raw materials. Yet the majority of new glass is only used once.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the United States generated 11.4 million tons of glass in 2017 but only recycled roughly three million tons. That’s a recycling rate of just 26%. When glass isn’t recycled, it often ends up in landfills, which produce a significant amount of greenhouse gases.

What can recycled glass be used to make?

Recycled glass cullet is used in the manufacturing and application of a long and varied list of items. It can be found in fiberglass insulation, carpet backing, water filtration, abrasives, jewelry, roof coating and asphalt, among other objects.

The PVB layer used to bind the glass panels of a windshield can also be broken down for repurposing. PVB is used in manufacturing such items as paint, textile/leather coatings, paper barrier coatings and anti-corrosive primers.

Get more car safety tips. 

AAA members can save 10% on Safelite AutoGlass replacement or repair. 

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