Ultimate Guide to Recycled Glass Crafts

Empty glass bottles being readied for recycling.
These bottles could be on their way to becoming recycled glass tiles or beads, which are great for making mosaics.

The term "green" has come a long way. Once just a secondary color comprised of yellow and blue, it now describes a social movement and way of life. Being green doesn't mean you're envious, but rather that you're making your effort to conserve Earth's natural resources and energy. One of the many ways to lead a green lifestyle is to recycle used materials from around your home.

Glass is an abundant product in our everyday lives. Whether it's an old jam jar, a candy dish or even a window, it has uses even after it's not needed in your home. Instead of throwing it out, you may want consider recycling or reusing the glass. Not only will it provide you with a great art supply, but it will save space in the local landfill.


When glass is recycled, it's broken down into smaller pieces and mixed in with soda ash and sand. This mixture is melted in a furnace. After melting down, manufacturers can mold it into new bottles or containers and use it again [source: WWF]. This process not only saves natural resources, but uses less energy than creating new glass.

Often, glass isn't recycled because the consumer's role isn't as easy as it is when dealing with plastic or cardboard. While glass bottles are often collected roadside or at your local recycling center in the same manner as paper and plastic, large products like windows or oven ware, or glass products with added components such as light bulbs, aren't as easily managed. Because they're hard on manufacturers' furnaces, they can't be collected and mixed in with simple glass bottles [source: Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection]. But that doesn't mean you can't find ways to re-use these products. Household crafts provide you with a new outlet for these old materials.

Check out the next two pages for information on recycled glass mosaics and window painting projects that you can do in your home or business.


Recycled Glass Tile Mosaics

Creating your own recycled glass mosaic may seem like a daunting task, but it's not as hard as you may think. These days, many companies are producing large quantities of 100 percent recycled glass tiles or beads. Not only are these products convenient, but they're good for the environment, making use of existing materials and using less than half the amount of energy needed to create ceramic tiles [sources: Sandhill, Kilaen].

To begin, start by planning your design. Buy a cement base board -- available online or in store through many different construction and hardware companies -- and pencil your design on its surface. Drill two holes about one-third of the way from the top and screw in machine screws [source: Tsong]. These will be the anchors you can attach wire to in order to hang the finished product.


For beginners, instead of buying whole tiles which will need to be cut down into smaller pieces, you may want to consider purchasing pre-cut recycled glass beads. They come in a variety of colors and shapes, and will make the project easier.

Determine which colors you'll need. One artist suggests buying multiple shades of each color [source: Tsong]. Therefore, if you plan to depict water in your mosaic, you should consider getting multiple shades of blue beads to better add depth and shading to your design.

To secure the beads to the canvas, purchase hand-mixable cement. Mix a small amount -- enough to use it before it hardens -- in a disposable cup. Mixing directions should be provided by the manufacturer. Starting on the inside of your design, spread a layer of cement about the size of the palm of your hand. Use tweezers, forceps or a steady hand to set glass pieces in place. There should be enough cement to press the bead in so only the top half shows. Continue this process until the entire base is covered. To finish, go around the edge with thin layer of cement.

Three days should be ample time for the cement and beads to dry and set. Use a wire brush to rid the design of excess cement. If you'd like, you can use cement dye to color small amount of cement. Paint a thin layer between the tiles to mask the natural light grey color [source: Tsong]. Allow it to dry and you're done!

Creating mosaics isn't your only artistic option for old glass. Head over to the next page to find one fun way to make use of your old windows.


Painting Recycled Windows

Window painting is a fun and creative way to recycle your old windows and glass. Not only will you free up space in your local landfill, but you'll be able to spend an afternoon with your family doing a hands-on, kid-friendly craft, or express yourself through an individualized artistic adventure. Either way, you have plenty of options for making your old windows into beautiful works of art.

Before you start, decide if your painting project will be permanent or temporary. Many businesses choose to display different window murals based on the season. Temporary jobs call for acrylic based paints, used for general painting projects. Avoid sealers, as these products are intended to last. They're marked for glass or tile and are appropriate for permanent jobs only [sources: Window Woman, Short]. Beyond your old window and paint, other helpful supplies include window cleaner, paper towels, a razor or credit card, a variety of brushes, painting sponges, water, painting tape and disposable plates.


Start by cleaning the glass using the window cleaner. Wipe dry with towel or paper towel and use the razor blade to scrape any remaining paint or marked areas. Then, set your paints out on the plates. Use your brushes to apply the paint to the window. Half-inch (1.27 cm) or .75-inch (1.90 cm) brushes work well for spreading large amounts of paint. Sponges are helpful here. Be sure to have thin liner brushes available for outlining and adding detail. Try to keep the paint free of any debris or harsh conditions until the paint has dried.

For permanent jobs, finish with a window sealant to protect the design. With temporary jobs, leave your piece up until you're ready to clean it off or start over. At this time, spray warm water over the paint. Allow the water to soak into the paint for a minute or two and then use your razor or credit card to scrape the paint off. Finish with a quick spray of your window cleaner to get the residual paint off [sources: Window Woman, Short].

If you're interested in learning even more about recycling your glass, be sure to check out the links on the next page.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • Blick. "Window Painting." Blick Art Supply. (Accessed 04/13/2009). http://www.dickblick.com/categories/windowpaint/
  • Grays Harbor County. "Recycling Glass." Grays Harbor Country Department of Public Services. (Accessed 04/13/2009). http://www.co.grays-harbor.wa.us/info/pub_svcs/Recycle/GlassRecycling.htm
  • Kilaen, Skye. "Mosaics Anyone? Recycled Glass to the Rescue." Crafting a Green World. Sept. 25, 2008. (Accessed 04/12/2009). http://craftingagreenworld.com/2008/09/25/mosaics-anyone-recycled-glass-to-the-rescue/
  • Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. "What Can Be Recycled?" (Accessed 04/13/2009). http://www.dep.state.pa.us/dep/deputate/airwaste/wm/Recycle/Recywrks/recywrks2.htm
  • Sandhill Industries. "About Us." (Accessed 04/12/2009). http://www.sandhillind.com/aboutus.asp
  • Short, Crystal. "One Stroke Decorative Painting on Windows." Carolina Paints. 2004. (Accessed 04/13/2009). http://www.carolinapaints.com/articles/200406-01WindowPainting.html
  • Tsong, Nicole. "Do-it-yourself project: Create a sharp glass mosaic." The Seattle Times. August 4th 2007. (Accessed 04/03/2009) http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/homegarden/2003818732_mosaic04.html
  • Tsong, Nicole. "Do-it-yourself project: Create a sharp glass mosaic - How-to gallery." The Seattle Times. August 4th 2007. (Accessed 04/03/2009) http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/photogalleries/homegarden2003820025/
  • WWF. "Recycling Glass - How it helps the environment." (Accessed 04/13/2009). http://www.panda.org/about_our_earth/teacher_resources/project_ideas/recycling_glass/
  • Window Woman, the. "Questions & Answers About Painting on Windows!" (Accessed 04/13/2009). http://www.windowwoman.com/faq.htm