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Most of the glass bottles and jars collected by Northwest Arkansas’ recycling programs don’t go far: Ripple Glass in Kansas City takes them, sorts and crushes them by color, then sends the glass powder to manufacturers that make new bottles and fiberglass insulation. And glass bottles can be recycled and remade over and over again without hurting the glass’s quality.

This video gives a behind-the-scenes look at the whole process:

You might have noticed before now that glass is a common inconsistency in our region’s recycling. A handful of cities take it in their curbside and drop-off programs, but many more take it only at their drop-off centers, and some don’t accept it at all.

The reason is that glass is difficult to deal with: It’s heavy, which means shipping it more than a couple of hours away is costly, plus it’s relatively cheap, so creating systems to handle it isn’t always a tempting investment. The challenge is also physical. Glass shatters, and those little pieces (and any liquids that were still inside) have a way of embedding themselves in cardboard, plastic bottles and other recyclables, making them useless and even dangerous for many recyclers. That’s why the only NWA curbside programs that accept glass are the ones that sort and divide their recyclables at the curb, keeping glass separate from everything else at every step.

Our partners and stakeholders have said that making the area’s recycling programs more consistent is a high priority over the next several years, so we’re working on it. In the meantime, you can conserve landfill space, energy and natural resources by recycling glass in the following cities. It’s bottles and jars only — no mirrors or other glass items.