Cast Glass Components out of Recycled Glass: Potential and Limitations of Upgrading Waste to Load-bearing Structures
Although in theory glass can be endlessly remelted without loss in quality, in practice only a small percentage gets recycled, mainly by the packaging industry. Most of the discarded glass fails to pass the high quality standards of the prevailing glass industry -due to coatings, adhesives, other contaminants or incompatibility of the recipe- and ends up in the landfill. However, employing discarded glass in cast components for building applications can be a way to reintroduce this waste to the supply chain. Such components can tolerate a higher percentage of inclusions, without necessarily compromising their mechanical or aesthetical properties. This paper explores the potential but also the limitations of recycling glass in order to obtain load-bearing components. First, an overview is provided regarding which types of glass reach the recycling plants and the which not, arguing on the reasons behind this selection. Afterwards, a series of experiments is presented, exploring the possibilities of recycling everyday glass waste, from beer bottles and Pyrex® trays to mobile phone screens. Each type of glass waste is initially cast separately to define its flow capability and risk of crystallization. The above information is linked to the X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analyses of the samples prior to recycling. Then, the possibility to mix different glass recipes without fracturing is evaluated. The results point out the types of glass with potential in structural applications, and the overall feasibility of the concept.