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ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: April 27, 2022

What’s old is new again: Recycling automotive glass

“Automotive glass presents unique challenges for manufacturing and recycling”
Chemical & Engineering News

The glass used in vehicle windows and windshields is carefully designed. It must be transparent and strong enough to withstand high-speed winds, resist impacts from debris and provide structural support during collisions. Automotive glass is challenging to make and as a result, challenging to recycle. But researchers are now finding innovative ways to reuse the material, according to a cover story in Chemical & Engineering News, an independent news outlet of the American Chemical Society.

Cars and trucks encounter a variety of weather and traffic conditions, so scientists and engineers give vehicle glass specific properties by fine-tuning the material’s composition and manufacturing process, writes Senior Correspondent Mitch Jacoby. Adjusting the formulation or adding a metal film coating controls tint and color. During manufacturing, glassmakers carefully temper the material, so that if broken, the glass shatters into small, rounded chunks instead of dangerous, sharp shards. Laminated windshields are made of two layers of plate glass bonded with an interlayer film, typically polyvinyl butyral (PVB). The result is a tough, transparent material that resists shattering.

The same properties and manufacturing procedures that make windshields tough also make them difficult to recycle. Most container glass can be recycled repeatedly with no loss in quality, but broken windshields are often buried in landfills. However, some companies are developing new approaches to separating the materials in windshields, crushing the glass into small, recyclable pieces and purifying the PVB for reuse in adhesives and other industrial products. Experts predict that automotive glass manufacturing will continue to grow as more cars are produced each year, sparking a greater interest in innovating ways to recycle the useful materials, while keeping broken windshields out of landfills.

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C&EN Chemical & Engineering News