How to Dispose of Tempered Glass

Tempered glass, also known as “safety glass,” is a much stronger form of typical glass.

Due to its toughness, it can be difficult to dispose of – the trash can or recycling bin immediately after cleaning or breaking is not safe for the disposer or whoever comes into contact with it later. 

Below is a step-by-step guide on how to dispose of tempered glass safely and quickly.

Things to Note Before You Disposing Tempered Glass

Tempered glass is required in some buildings by the International Residential Code (IRC) in these circumstances:

  • All doors
  • Windows with a pane greater than nine square feet
  • Any glass that runs alongside a stairway, ramp, or landing
  • Windows that are less than 18 inches from the floor

If any of these are in your home, you should be very conscious of how to dispose of the glass if it breaks.

The reason tempered glass is required has to do with the risk of people falling into it – if a person can fall into the glass, chances are the glass has to be tempered.

Tempered glass can also spontaneously break due to the expansion of the nickel sulfide within it. While the expansion does take some time, it is a dangerous possibility. 

It is important to note these aspects of tempered glass before you begin disposing of it – the more you know about its chemical make-up, the smoother the disposal process will be. 

Step One: Preparing to Dispose of Tempered Glass

One of the most important steps of this process is preparation. To safely dispose of tempered glass, you will need:

  • Safety gloves
  • Newspaper
  • Twine/string
  • Plastic bag
  • Hard-bristled broom

You should also figure out if the glass can be recycled in your area; certain states or counties will not allow the tempered glass to be recycled, while many others do.

For example, South Carolina does not allow any type of glass to be recycled, while some states will pay you to recycle.

The issue with recycling tempered glass is not the glass itself, but the chemicals it has been treated with. If you cannot recycle it at a center, try seeing if anyone in your community needs it. 

You should also note the item you are disposing of. Common tempered glass products are:

  • Mobile phone screen protectors
  • Aquariums
  • Refrigerator trays
  • Plates & cookware
  • Shower doors

If the item is larger, such as a shower door, it will take much more time to clean up than something smaller, like a screen protector.

Step Two: Wrap the Glass

Put on safety gloves and begin picking up the glass with the newspaper. For larger pieces, you should double-layer the paper to be sure no sharp edges cut through. 

The simplest way to wrap the glass is to pick it up with your gloved hand and carefully wrap each piece until the corners of the paper meet.

Continue doing this until each substantial piece is wrapped – you may have small shards left over.

Step Three: Tie Wrapped Glass

When you have successfully wrapped each piece of glass, take several pieces of string and tie each piece so the paper will be secured.

The goal of this is to make sure the glass does not become unwrapped and cause any injury or damage to the bag it is placed in.

That said, tempered glass is considered to be safer than typical glass, and is often used because:

  • It tends to “burst into thousands of pebble-sized pieces” when it breaks.
  • The edges are more prone to breaking, while the center is less susceptible to damage.

When tying the pieces of glass, be sure that the edges of each piece are tied securely in the newspaper to prevent further breakage.

Step Four: Disposal

When you are finished tying the tempered glass, it is time to dispose of it. Before doing so, remember to keep it separate from your typical house trash & recyclables! You should:

  • Double-check each piece for sharp, protruding edges
  • Make sure that every shard ends up in the bag or box – no remnants
  • Use caution when disposing of the tempered glass to avoid injury

Place the wrapped pieces into a plastic bag, and place them next to your trash or recycling bin. Tie off the bag to ensure children or pets do not have easy access to the bag.

Remember that if you are recycling the glass, do not use a plastic bag. These cannot be recycled and could result in contamination.

Step Five: Further Cleaning

After the tempered glass is separated into a plastic bag, the area in which it broke must be cleaned thoroughly.

Using a hard-bristled broom, sweep the area, making sure that all visible pieces are swept away.

Consider sweeping the area repeatedly to be certain that all shards are disposed of. This will prevent cuts and injury to anyone that walks over the space. 

Special Circumstances

All of this aside, perhaps your broken tempered glass did not completely shatter. There could be leftover shards or pieces in their original structure (such as a window).

While the cleanup process will be essentially the same, the preparation for these cases is a bit more involved. 

If you have partially shattered tempered glass, removal can vary based on product. If you have a broken tempered glass screen protector, you should:

  • Turn your phone/tablet completely off
  • Gently pry the edges of the protector up with a toothpick or something similar
  • Slide a credit card under the edge space once its large enough
  • Continue until protector is completely off
  • Wipe clean with a cloth. 

Tip: If you have issues getting the protector to come up, try using a hairdryer to warm the glass.

If your situation is a bit more complex or large, such as a door or window, you should:

  • Unscrew the plates that attach the tempered glass panel to the structure
  • Slowly peel off the panel
  • Place a towel below the tempered glass
  • Scrape glass off, but be careful – the glass will fall! 

If you are disposing of a glass tabletop (such as those commonly used on coffee tables), you should:

  • Try to break the tabletop into a few large shards making it easier to wrap
  • Detach the tabletop from the table
  • Wrap pieces in a large cloth, like a towel or blanket
  • Place the pieces in a box or large plastic bag

If your tempered glass product is quite large, be sure to call your local waste management company. They may have specific instructions on how to handle and dispose of the glass.

When breaking your tempered glass, be sure to wear thick, rubber-soled shoes. These will prevent any shards that fall from harming your feet. 

When finished removing the broken tempered glass, be sure to wipe off the soles of your shoes to prevent glass dust from spreading. 

After the removal, proceed to dispose of the tempered glass as outlined above.

Things to Remember 

If you are not sure if the glass can be removed or disposed of safely, call a glass specialist or someone familiar with removing the tempered glass to prevent injury.

Remember that if you cannot recycle glass in your area, do not put tempered glass into the recycling bin. Doing so can cause contamination and do more harm than good. 

Recycling items that are considered contaminated can lead to:

Before beginning the disposal process, be sure that any children or pets are out of the area. Shards of glass can quickly get into paws, feet, and skin in general and are very difficult to remove.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember is to consider that your disposal is safe for those handling it.

Do not:

  • Leave sharp edges or sides exposed
  • Put the broken tempered glass with other trash
  • Put the broken tempered glass into the dumpster

Label the bag or box to ensure extra caution during handling.

The label should be written in large letters on the outside of the box or bag so everyone handling it can see it.

When you dispose of tempered glass correctly, it is harmless. However, rushing the process or neglecting to follow these steps can cause others harm, along with the environment.

Final Thoughts

When tempered glass breaks, the first instinct most have is to panic. But, disposal of this very durable material is quite a bit easier than typical glass and is made to be safer.

If the proper steps are taken, tempered glass disposal is an easy and efficient process. The main focus should be on the safety of those handling the material.

By disposing of tempered glass using the above steps, you will ensure your safety and keep the rest of your household from harm as well.

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