Is Broken Auto Glass Recycled?

Most environmentally conscious people try to recycle and repurpose as much as possible. When it comes to larger and less common items such as building materials or automotive parts, it might not be immediately clear whether something can be recycled, or where.

Auto glass waiting to be recycled

Up until the last few years, recycling your broken windshield was impossible. Some windshields were repurposed by grinding it and using it as a filler in certain aggregates and construction applications. But for the most part, windshields ended up in the landfills.

Today advancements in recycling have been made reusing windshield glass a reality. These programs are not widely known or assessable, but with the right resources you can recycle windshield glass.

At Century Glass, we recycle the glass from all of our residential, commercial, and auto glass projects. We can help you conveniently recycle your windshield with little effort.

How Windshields Impact the Environment

Every item that is manufactured, consumed, and discarded has an environmental impact, and that includes windshields. A lot of energy, resources, and fuel are used to manufacture replacement windshields. Responsible windshield manufacturers are using a mix of recycled and newly sourced materials to make their windshields to reduce this impact. However, recycled windshield glass cannot be used to create new ones.

Up until recently, windshields most often went to the landfills. With new recycling methods available, landfill waste can be greatly reduced. Windshields, like other types of glass, can persist in landfills for many years, adding to climate change and pollution concerns. When you use our auto glass repair service, we will keep your windshield out of the landfill with recycling programs.

What Makes Auto Glass Recycling Different?

The glass used to make up your windshield is much different than the glass of containers and beverages that you encounter every day. Those types of glass are easily recyclable with little if any waste, and it is very cheap to process. Windshield glass, on the other hand, is made up of both recyclable and nonrecyclable materials, making it more difficult to recycle.

Windshield glass is made up of two laminated layers of glass fused together with a layer of a plastic polymer called polyvinyl butyral, or PVB, between. This is done to reduce the occurrence of cracks and breaks upon impact, particularly from pedestrians or head-on collisions. The polymer layer and other features of windshields must be removed during recycling.

You also can’t recycle your windshield the same way that you might other types of glass. Here in South Carolina, most neighborhoods have curbside recycling programs. While these do allow for glass recycling, they do not allow for windshields. You need to choose a reliable windshield repair company that will recycle the broken or cracked windshield for you.


Challenges in Recycling Windshields

The main challenge in recycling windshields is their makeup. In order to render the glass usable in another application, it has to be crushed and the non-glass components, like the interior polymer layer, must be removed. It has only been in the last several years that cost-effective techniques for handling this separation have been developed.

The technology used to recycle windshields is still relatively new, and recycling centers and companies are woefully unprepared to deal with this new challenge. There are only a few companies recycling windshields at this time, and most of them are windshield manufacturers.

There is also a challenge in letting people know that windshields are now recyclable. Because it was not possible for so long, most people are not aware that they can recycle this part of their car. We will always give you the information you need to recycle your replaced auto glass.

How Windshield Glass is Recycled and Reused

Auto glass is recycled in much the same way as other types of glass, with a few exceptions. Glass is recycled by crushing it and removing inclusions, which are non-glass materials. These materials in auto glass, particularly windshields, include:

  • Polymer layer from lamination
  • Heating elements for defrosting (usually on back windshields)
  • Film from window tinting
  • Protective glazing

In times past, if glass had too many inclusions other than paper labels, the glass would be discarded and sent to a landfill. This is still true of most glass recycling, because recycling plants are not equipped with the necessary technology to remove inclusions. This is also why few recycling centers take windshields.

In recent years, new methods of recycling glass have been developed. Today, glass recyclers can effectively separate inclusions from cullet (or crushed glass), which means that windshields can now be recycled. Windshields contain laminate, PVB, and may have other features, such as tinting film or heating elements. Without separating these materials from the glass, the cullet cannot reliably be used for very many purposes.

There have also been some studies looking into other ways to recycle and reuse glass. One research study in 2015 discovered that auto glass can be recycled to be used as a source of silica. Silica is often used in creating building materials such as sand, masonry, or concrete. With the process used by the researchers, cullet could be inclusion-free as the PVB interior layer of the laminated glass will melt away at low temperatures without affecting the silica collection.

Recycled auto glass is used in a number of ways. Most windshields are made with about 25% cullet, which may or may not come from recycled auto glass. Recycled glass can also be used in the following applications:

  • Industrial materials
  • Building and construction materials
  • Road repair (when mixed with asphalt or aggregate)

If you want to make sure that your auto glass gets reused in this way, you need to choose a windshield repair company that will help you send the replaced windshield to a recycler.

Finding a Recycling Company to Take Your Replaced Windshield

Finding a company that will recycle your windshield is not going to be easy. There are very few auto glass recyclers, both in the US and globally. Typical glass recyclers are not set up to recycle auto glass because they do not have the equipment and means to separate inclusions from the cullet so that it will be usable.

For these reasons, the best way to recycle your windshield is to have your auto glass repair technician recycle the glass for you. Often, they will store the windshield glass until they have accumulated a certain amount, after which it is sent to a windshield manufacturer or recycling center to prepare it for reuse.

Of course, you may also have difficulty finding many auto glass repair companies that participate in recycling programs. Many companies simply don’t want to make the effort or don’t have the space for storage. You shouldn’t assume that a repair company will recycle your windshield for you.

At Century Glass, we want to be as environmentally conscious as possible. To that end, we will work with you to make sure that your windshield glass is recycled and repurposed. While not all windshields can be recycled, depending on the features, we will be able to guide you to what can and can’t be recycled.


When you have a last-minute need for windshield repair, we can be on site quickly to assist you. Or, if you are a company with several vehicles in your care, contact us to learn more about our fleet services. We can help you repair or replace all of your windshields while also recycling all the materials possible.

Call the Glass Experts at Century Glass

Century Glass is the glass company you can count on. We have a team of glass professionals who can assist you with your windshield, shower door, and home glass needs. We understand reliability and convenience are key. Our customers enjoy not just clearer glass, but see life’s moments more clearly.

Call us today at:
Columbia: 803-256-8134
Northeast Columbia: 803-699-2342
Charleston: 843-614-4628

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