Safelite, the the nation’s largest windshield replacements provider, says it is the only vehicle glass company with a wide-scale windshield recycling program.
Windshields are not commonly recycled because they are made from laminated glass, which is created using two sheets of glass with a clear resin interlay called Polyvinyl Butyral (PVB) between. It is the resin interlay that keeps the glass together when damaged, but it is also difficult to separate the glass and inner plastic layers and re-purpose the PVB.
Additionally, the logistics of returning windshields to a recycling plant are challenging.
In 2012, Safelite AutoGlass implemented its windshield recycling program thanks to a partnership with Shark Glass Recycling North America.
With Shark’s patented technology, the laminated glass from Safelite’s customers is processed through the crusher, which separates the glass from PVB. About 90 percent becomes “glass cullet,” which can then be recycled into a number of new products including fiberglass insulation, while about 7 percent becomes PVB scrap, which is reprocessed into pellets and recycled into a number of new products, such as carpet backing, paint and primer, and other plastic products.
Safelite uses rugs made with the recycled carpet backing with the company logo in many of its locations.
The logistics of collecting the damaged windshields and shipping to the recycling plant were designed to be carbon neutral, using existing freight lanes within the supply chain returning to Safelite’s east coast distribution center. For this reason, Safelite currently has 70 percent of its locations returning damaged windshields and hopes to reach 100 percent in the near future.
Last year Safelite said it recycled more than 1 million windshields in 2013.