Glass can be found anywhere. Even now, just look around yourself, and you will find plenty of stuff, including the screen that you are looking at right now. This makes us wonder if this much glass is being used all around the world, where does it end up after it’s wasted? Does it decompose?
The simple answer is no; it does not decompose as glass is a non-biodegradable material. It can decompose in a million years or so, as it is degradable. Still, it will that really count? Glass is an inert substance, meaning it doesn’t have any biological functionality or organics. This means that glass doesn’t break down into other substances as wood does—it just stays the same forever and ever.
This makes us wonder why it does not decompose when it is a natural material, and what factors can actually break it down or decompose it. Hence, this article will discuss why glass does not decompose, what other forces can break down the glass, how long it takes, and what impact it has on the environment.
What Makes Glass Unable To Decompose?
Glass is non-biodegradable due to the production process. It is made from sand, soda ash, and limestone. The melting point of these three materials is extremely high, even higher than the temperature at which they are created. This means that glass does not decompose easily because it gets very hot when it melts.
When the raw materials used for making glass are melted at extremely high temperatures in an oven, it produces molten glass. That molten glass is molded and cooled into different forms of shapes and sizes.
This process, referred to as glass blowing, makes the materials undergo many chemical alterations, which makes the final product of glass unable to decompose.
What Can Break Down The Glass?
Earlier, we mentioned that glass could not decompose because it is a non-biodegradable material. However, it can degrade due to other natural or human-enforced forces, namely only physical forces. These include:
- Human Enforced Forces
How Long Does It Take to Decompose?
Glass decomposition can take a very long time, even thousands of years. In fact, broken glass dating back to even 2000 B.C. have been discovered.
Since it is extremely resistant to common degradation agents, particularly microorganisms, it requires environmental variables and a long time to degrade. The properties that make glass so appealing, such as its resistance to corrosion and durability, also make breakdown difficult.
How Does Glass Impact Our Environment?
The truth is that glass can be recycled infinitely without losing its quality, so it is not necessary to decompose it. Since glass may be recycled indefinitely, it is the more environmentally friendly option when compared to paper or plastic.
You can also check out the following video to learn what happens to glass.
The Bright Side Of Substituting Plastic With Glass
As we’ve mentioned above, this substance is manufactured from only the sources which are in abundance, namely sand, soda ash, and limestone. It does not use any harmful chemicals that might end up in our food chain. So we can state that, despite our apparent excessive glass consumption, we are not threatening the supply for future generations.
Another good news is that glass is totally recyclable. It is very strong and long-lasting so you can use it again and again with the best quality. They are a good alternative to single-use plastic bottles, which can not be recycled.
Since plastic can not be recycled, It also doesn’t help that plastic can be found all over the planet, especially in bodies of water like the Arctic Ocean. Unfortunately, as we mentioned, plastic does not dissolve or biodegrade naturally.
Moreover, some sea animals confuse plastic for food and may die from consuming this garbage. The water also gets much polluted and affects all the sea life. Hence, reusing and repurposing glass helps reduce the quantity of garbage in landfills and oceans.
During the glass manufacturing process, no toxic chemicals or waste is let out, and there is no use of hydrocarbons. Proving even the process to be environment-friendly.
Glass also preserves living beings’ health and well-being, as it does not mold any of the taste, aroma, or essence of food or anything that it preserves. It is recognized by the US Food and Drug Administration under GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe).
Threats From Glass Production
Despite its many benefits, unfortunately, it also has some issues that are not very environment-friendly. After all, excess of everything is bad.
An all-natural production material might sound like a benefit at first, but the truth is that the overuse of these natural resources can result to be harmful. Sand, for example, is harvested from riverbeds and seabeds.
This harvesting harms the ecosystem, can cause major disasters, and disrupt the food chain of microorganisms that live on it. If too much coastal sand is harvested, it can make the land prone to flood water and erosion.
Another drawback is that glass production requires extremely high temperatures, as high as 1700 C, which requires a lot of energy.
We also have to note that after the production of glass, the next step is to transport it. This process requires a lot of care as glass, which is a very delicate and heavy material, can easily break. This means that there will be a lot of fuel consumption, as more trips between factories will be needed.
Recycling Might Be the Ultimate Solution
We established that glass is a good alternative to plastic but not without drawbacks. We can reduce the impact of these drawbacks by recycling glass, so we do not have to use any more of natural resources.
Since we have established that glass does not decompose, we should also be careful while wasting away glass in our dumpsters, as it could harm any living being. Rather, recycling and knowing what affects our environment properly will be a good change to the global society. Start recycling from your home and spread the word to your loved ones.