There has been a lot of focus on packaging recycling in recent years and the release of the Packaging Strategy consultation and the 2009 recycling performance figures have reignited this debate.
The Packaging Strategy consultation offers an opportunity to address some of the burning issues of glass recycling.
The Packaging Strategy proposes capping the amount of PRNs that can be written for glass aggregates at the 2008 level, something the UK glass industry welcomes. The consultation proposes to achieve this by setting business targets for glass back to remelt; however, what is meant by remelt in the consultation is not currently clear. Remelt for glass can be back into new bottles and jars in the UK, glass fibre manufacture in the UK, and/or exported for use in the same markets in Europe.
Figures from the National Packaging Waste Database estimate that recycled glass in alternative uses, predominantly aggregates, increased again in 2009 by an estimated 40,000 tonnes, whilst glass available for UK Container manufacture saw a further decrease of 22,000 tonnes over the same period. There are concerns in the glass industry about how the waste management supply chain can reverse this trend, as many local authorities and waste management companies have invested in collection systems that are often only capable of delivering glass suitable for aggregate use.
Rebecca Cocking, Recycling Manager of the British Glass Manufacturers' Confederation said "Whilst we acknowledge that changes in collection systems will not occur overnight, some authorities and waste management companies are in a position to start making a change now, to improve the quality and quantity of glass.
"Including differential PRNs for remelt and aggregate in the consultation is a major step forward in acknowledging the environmental benefit of closed loop recycling and we hope that the outcome will be positive. We have been fighting for recognition of the environmental benefits of closed loop recycling for many years and are encouraged that this could soon become reality."
As climate change continues to move up the political agenda the environmental benefit of glass going back to remelt will become more important for both government and the glass supply chain. The Packaging Strategy consultation highlighted how glass recycled into containers saves up to 315Kg of CO2 eq per tonne recycled, whereas aggregate use does not provide any CO2 benefit.
In 2009 the UK glass container sector consumed just short of 640,000 tonnes of the total 1.65 million tonnes recycled. Tim Neal, Environment, Energy and Risk Manager of O-I said "Container glass manufacturers have the capability to use 100% of cullet collected in the UK either within the UK or abroad, assuming economic and quality criteria are met".
So what can be done?
. Collect glass in a manner that enables it to be returned to remelt applications. Ideally it should be colour separated.
. Increase quantity of glass collected through bring banks, and kerbside collections.
. Educate operatives and consumers more forcefully that ceramics and pyro-ceramics should not be included in glass recycling.
Rebecca Cocking concluded "The UK needs to move away from purely meeting the next set of targets and look at long term sustainability. If glass was collected with the best quality in mind, all end use applications would benefit. For this to be achieved all parties in the supply chain need to work together towards a common goal."
Notes to Editors
1 British Glass
The British Glass Manufacturers' Confederation represents the interests of all sectors of the glass industry in the UK. Its main activity is in representing the industry at European, national and local level on a wide range of topical legislative issues. It also conducts independent research into all aspects of glass production and technology.
Further Information can be obtained from:
9 Churchill Way
9 Churchill Way