The Use of Waste Glass as Construction Material

Topics: Glass, Recycling, Waste Pages: 22 (6558 words) Published: September 11, 2013


Waste glass is of great concern in some developed countries, particularly in the urban areas. This is because of the amount of waste material generated from both municipal and construction sources, and the lack of waste disposal areas to receive the material. Countries like Japan, the United States of America, and Australia have taken the initiative to invest in the recycling of glass in order to mitigate the ever increasing amount of waste glass generated over the years.

1.1 History of glass
According to (Lee, Jr. 2007), glass can occur naturally as volcanic deposits and fulgurite. It is also be manufactured from silica sand (SiO2) and a mixture of other compounds. Glass containers manufacturing dates back over 3500 years and evolved around 50 AD by the Romans using the mouth-blowing technique to form complex shapes. During this time, the mouthblowing technique transformed multi-coloured transparent glass into many shapes and sizes, but resulted in small quantities which were mostly used as stained window panes in churches (Guardian Glass Time n.d.). Europe was the first continent to benefit from the Italians advanced glass industry in the middle ages. At present, over 1000 chemicals formulas are used in the glass manufacturing industry (Lee, Jr. 2007). During the twentieth century, the modern era of glass brought forth magnificent skyscrapers redefining the skyline. In addition, glass cladding of buildings fulfils functional requirements of lighting, heat retention and energy saving. “The nature of glass – its visual appeal, interplay with light, a sense of openness and harmonious integration with the environment, facilitates interesting and creative uses both in the interiors and exteriors of any building” (Property Bytes 2013).

1.2 Uses of glass in the construction industry
The use of glass in the construction industry has increased over a number of years and recently has been incorporated into the structural elements of load bearing components to increase lighting and to enhance appearance of the structures. Not all glass components used in the construction industry are structurally loaded, and they can be found in non-structural lightweight concrete, paints, partitions and waste water filtration devices just to name a few. Glass can be found in both translucent and transparent forms, and is perceived as being superior and more economical and sustainable than that of cement, concrete and steel.



Glass beams

Complex glass structures exist in the modern world. One such structure is the glass beam which had limited span length but can be joined to lengthen its span to at least 2-3 times the original. For example, the Yuraku-cho station in Tokyo has a 10.6m cantilever glass canopy at the entrance of the station, which consists of four individual beams pinned together to form an arch shown in Figures 1 and 2. (Leitch 2005).

Figure 1 Yuraku-cho underground station in Tokyo, Japan (source:


Glass columns

Glass columns is yet another interesting structural component that architect and engineers managed to use in places where clients do not like to see columns because of their visual obstructions. These columns made from glass create an interesting visual feature that is appealing to the eyes and give the appearance of an uninterrupted open space. Design strength of these columns is carefully done but designers also over-design the structures that are being supported by the glass column in order to prevent collapse in the event the column fails. Although glass is strong in compression, there is still a fear of brittle failure, hence the overdesign of the structures being supported. In addition, load distribution of the applied load must be carefully uniformly distributed to prevent the development of concentrated stress that can trigger a brittle failure.

Figure 2 Columns of glass in Russia (Source:


References: Bishop, Paul L. Pollution Prevention: Fundamentals and Practice. Waveland Pr Inc (April 2004), 2004. Cement, Concrete & Aggregates Australia. "Use of Recycled Aggregates in Construction." May 2008. Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. Construction and Demolition Waste Guide: Recycling and Reuse Across the Supply Chain. Australian Government, 2012. Enviros Consulting Ltd for British Glass. Glass Recycling – Life Cycle Carbon Dioxide Emission. A Life Cycle Analysis Report, British Glass, 2003. Gabbert Cullet. n.d. (accessed July 16, 2013). Glass for Europe. n.d. (accessed July 14, 2013). Glass Manual. Glass Facts - Production of Glass. March 2007. (accessed July 19, 2013). Guardian Glass Time. n.d. Hughes, Charles S. Feasibility of Using Recycled Glass In Asphalt: Final Report. Virginia Transportation Research Council, 1990. Institute of Civil Engineers. "The Case for a Resource Management Strategy." January 2006. Isaac Finkle, GRA, EIT, and Ph.D., P.E. Khaled Ksaibati. Recycled Glass Utilisation in Highway Construction. Department of Civil & Architectural Engineering, University of Wyoming, 2007. Japan Local Government Centre. "Creation new industry through glass recycling." 2009. Lee, Jr., Landris T. "Recycled Glass and Dredged Materials." March 2007. Leitch, Katherine K. Structural Glass Technology . Civil and Environmental Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2005. Mayer, C, N Egosi, and C Andela. Concrete with Waste Glass as Aggregate. Columbia University, RRT Design and Construction, Andela Products Ltd, 2001. Nebraska State Recycling Association. Glass Cullet Utilization Study. Civil Engineering Applications, HDR Engineering Ltd., 1997. Property Bytes. Glass in Construction. 2013. (accessed July 18, 2013). Property Pulse. Use of glass in construction brings dramatic change in the built environment. May 31, 2011. (accessed July 14, 2013). Solid and Hazardous Waste Education Center. "Alternative Uses for Post-Consumer Glass." 2012. 20 | P a g e
U.S. Department of Transportation. The Use of Recycled Materials in Highway Construction. 1994. (accessed July 18, 2013). United States Environmental Protection Agency. Markets for Recovered Glass. United States Environmental Protection Agency, 1992. West, Larry. Benefits of Glass Recycling: Why Recycle Glass? n.d. (accessed July 18, 2013). n.d.
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