Automobile industryCar technologyRecycling

What happens to the windshields of your car when they cannot be repaired anymore?

3 Mins read

A windshield is one of the most crucial part of any car. In many cases, car owners have a chance to repair their windshields, however, there are situations in which they have to replace an entire windshield.

It happens that the scale of windshield replacing is rather high. Only in the USA itself, the replacement of this car element reaches the level of millions of items a year. Needless to say, developing options for recycling windshields is absolutely crucial for the protection of the environment and saving resources.

Fortunately, there are ways of recycling car windshields even though it is not thus simple as in the case of other objects made of glass. You will learn more on the topic in this article.

What is the problem with windshield recycling?

As we have just mentioned, windshield recycling is a more complicated process than recycling of glass bottles and jars. Certainly, that is so because of specific features of windshields which can be called a composite material.

A typical windshield is actually made of three layers of materials. Normally, there are two layers made of glass, whereas there is an additional polymer layer located between them. This layer is a polyvinyl butyral film.

Such a particular design of windshields is determined by the safety measures. First of all, the layered structure of windshields reduces the possibility of people getting hurt by flying pieces of glass in case of nay collision. In addition to it, such windshields are also less likely to get completely broken and shattered and, as a result, will prevent people from getting out of the vehicle during a collision.

As you can see, the design of windshields requires two types of recycling such as glass recycling and p-plastic recycling. On top of that the whole recycling procedure has to include the process of detaching the layers from each other as well.

What are the exact processes involved into windshield recycling?

In the real world, recycling companies are usually cooperating with the companies specialising in windshield replacement. The latter ones can collect and store broken windshields which cannot be repaired. As you can imagine, these windshields are then sent to a recycling company.

The next step of the recycling process of windshields is separation of the layers. This is usually done with special devices called strippers which will help people to detach the glass out of the plastic layer. Then, the windshields are pulverised.

Note that the glass recovered from windshields is not used for producing new windshields. Yet, it has other usages such as glass bottles and fiberglass insulations. Additionally, the glass from windshields is a crucial ingredient of concrete blocks.

Well, now you understand how recovered glass is used, however, it is still not clear what happens to the polymer used in windshields.

Recovered PVB usually has a mass of around 7% of the entire windshield. Fortunately, this material can be reused. The popular ways of using PVB recovered from windshields is for carpets, paints, clues and primers.

Examples of windshield recycling programmes

A general trend for the industry of windshield recycling is that many companies whose primary specialisation is replacement of windshields are setting their own infrastructure for recycling the windshields which cannot be repaired. Here, you will find a couple of examples of such companies all of which are working in the USA.

Safelite AutoGlass

So far, the largest service for windshield replacement in the USA is Safelite AutoGlass. Just imagine the scale of its work – the company processed four million windshields within the period between 2012 and 2015. It is crucial to point out that the recycling process used by this company also includes recycling the PVB membrane contained in windshields. For this purpose, Safelite AutoGlass is cooperating with Shark Glass Recycling North America which is a leader on the market when it comes to recovering and recycling PVB.

Shark Glass Recycling North America has all the needed infrastructure for separating glass layers from polyvinyl butyral and preparing this polymer for further usage.

The scale of the recycling of windshields in Shark Glass Recycling North America is immense. Just imagine, the company reported processing around six million windshields in 2016.

JN Pillips

Another important company on the market of windshield recycling is JN Phillips. Since it established its special GreenShield programme in 2010, the company has had a goal of reaching the ;level at which it will be able to recycle 100% of all the damaged windshields the company is working with.

The company as well as its recycling partner are able to create relatively cheap materials which can be reused on a large scale.

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