What to do with broken glass

Whether you just lost your grip on the mayo or toppled a wine glass during a party, broken glass can cause a bit of a panic. If you are wondering how to dispose of broken glass safely, you’re in the right place.

Updated Reading Time: 5 minutesBy Wiki Tips English Team

Smashed wine glass on the floor

The crash from a falling glass is enough to make you wince, and it’s truly amazing how far the pieces can travel, especially on hard floors. Learning what to do with broken glass is an essential life skill. Not the most enjoyable of tasks, but one we all face now and then.

Broken glass disposal should be done quickly, carefully and thoroughly. A missed shard or badly disposed of smashed mug has the potential to cause serious injury. Would you rather spend five more minutes cleaning it up, or wait five hours in A&E to get stitched up? We thought so.

You will need:

  • Thick rubber gloves
  • Newspaper or cardboard box
  • Vacuum
  • Cloth
  • Bread or damp paper towel
  • Bin bag
  • Multi-purpose cleaner

What to do with broken glass

  1. Protect yourself

    How do you handle broken glassware? Carefully! First of all, protect yourself by putting on a pair of thick rubber gloves and make sure you’re wearing a proper pair of shoes. You’ll also want to keep children and animals well out of the room until you’ve finished clearing up the glass.

    If they were in the room when the glass was broken, check to make sure they’re not injured and that no stray shards are caught up in their fur/clothing.

  2. Pick up the glass

    Get a newspaper or a cardboard box to hold the glass. If you’re using a newspaper, open it up but keep the sheets together so it’s good and thick. If you’re using a box, make sure there are no gaps that the glass could slip through.

    Carefully pick up the shards of glass in your gloved hands, and place them on top of the newspaper or in the box. Check the floor in the whole room, and beyond if the glass was broken near a doorway. 

    Make sure you check underneath appliances, tables, chairs and so on. If you’re in the kitchen, open the oven and fridge door, as it’s easy for glass shards to hide underneath.

    Step 2: broken wine glass in a cardboard box
  3. Vacuum the area

    Next, vacuum the whole room thoroughly (you can mop up any spilt liquid with some paper towels first). Don’t use a broom or the brush attachment on the vacuum, as little shards can get stuck in the bristles and transfer back onto the floor next time you use it.

    Step 3: person vacuuming glass from the floor
  4. Wipe the area

    Even a powerful vacuum cleaner can leave tiny shards and glass dust behind. So, wipe a fresh piece of bread or some damp paper towel over the whole area. The glass will stick to it. Then just pop the bread or paper towel on top of the rest of the glass that you’ve cleaned up.

    Step 4: person wiping the floor from broken glass
  5. Dispose of the glass

    Carefully wrap the glass (and bread) up in the sheets of newspaper or close the lid of the cardboard box. Tape it closed. Put the whole lot into a plastic bag, along with the rubber gloves, and tie the bag closed. Make sure you use a bin bag for this, as carrier bags have small holes. The bag should now be safe to place in your general waste bin.

    Step 5: Person putting cardboard box into bin bag
  6. Clean up spills

    While you’ve already mopped up any spills, some liquids, like orange juice, milk etc, need properly cleaning up so they don’t leave a sticky residue.

    If you’re dealing with a hard surface, spray some multi-purpose cleaner over it, and wipe it clean with a damp cloth.

    For carpet or upholstery, make up a solution of water and carpet cleaner, as detailed on the packet. Dab the stain with the solution, wipe it with clean water and then pat it dry. It’s best to use disposable paper towels for this, just in case any glass dust is still trapped in the carpet fibres. If the liquid has left a stain (hello red wine), you can read some handy stain removal tips here.

    Step 6: Person wiping the floor with a cloth

Voila, job done. You can breathe easily once again!

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How to dispose of broken glass that’s too big for the bin

If you’ve broken a mirror or window, you might have large pieces of glass that won’t fit in the bin. First off, call your local recycling centre. They may be able to take the glass as it is.

If they can’t accept broken glass, you may need to break it into smaller pieces. To do this as safely as possible, you’re going to need to wear gloves, shoes and safety goggles.

Wrap the glass in a large, thick piece of material – an old towel is ideal. Carry it outside and make sure the glass is secure inside the towel. Using a hammer, lightly tap on the glass through the towel, to break it into smaller pieces. We’re going to stress the word lightly here – you want smaller pieces of glass, not tiny shards.

Once you have pieces that will fit in the bin, leave them inside the towel and put the whole thing in a cardboard box. Tape it closed, put it in a bin bag and then pop that in the bin. Don’t forget to check the area the glass was broken in, as well as the area where you broke it into smaller pieces, for any stray shards.

Why attempt broken glass recycling

In general, broken glass isn’t recyclable, namely because it tends to be dangerous or may require some special treatment. However, reducing our amounts of glass waste is extremely important, so it’s not a bad idea to attempt broken glass recycling. Even when glass can’t be re-melted into products, it can normally be used as aggregate, meaning it still isn’t going to waste. Definitely don’t attempt this yourself, but certain glass recycling collection services will offer to remove your broken glass in a way that is safe. Remember that you’ll need a special collection procedure rather than a regular glass collection service.

Can I put broken glass in the recycling bin?

Broken glass can sometimes be recycled, but councils often won’t accept it in a kerbside bin, as it risks injuring workers. So you might need to take it to a bottle bank or local recycling centre. Check your local council’s website or call them to ask how to dispose of glass. You can also find out more about recycling non-broken glass here.

Can broken glass go in the bin?

Yes, it can go in your main bin, but do make sure you wrap it in several sheets of newspaper or put it in a box before you put it in a bin bag, so that the refuse collectors don’t cut themselves.

Originally published