Opinion Former Article

British Glass: Glass recycling exceeds expectations

Figures from the National Packaging Waste Database showed that the UK recycled 1,613,000 tonnes of packaging glass - an increase of around 150,000 tonnes in twelve months. The result of this success is that the UK has successfully met the EU Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive of 60%.

Commenting on these figures Rebecca Cocking, Recycling Manager for British Glass said, "The news is good for the UK as a whole but the UK glass container sector saw a further decline in the amount of glass returned to remelt. This is, unfortunately, because quality and availability is deteriorating due to the nature in which glass is collected by Local Authorities and Waste Management Companies who are focusing on glass as a waste and not a resource.

"The UK glass container industry could use double the amount of good quality recycled glass cullet if it was available. Of the 1,613,000 tonnes of glass recycled in the UK only 665,561 tonnes was returned to UK glass manufacturers for remelt - the worst performance since 2004."

Surprisingly, despite the remelt sector paying premium prices for waste glass it is not being used to make new bottles and jars in the UK. Instead, cullet is being directed into alternative uses such as building aggregate. Whilst this is better than it going to landfill, it has been proven time and time again that the most environmentally beneficial use of glass waste is for it to be sent to glass manufacturers to melt into new bottles and jars - 8 billion of which are manufactured every year in the UK.

Rebecca commented, "If all the recycled container glass collected and processed was used to make new bottles and jars, it would save 380,000 tonnes of CO2 every year - a huge environmental benefit.

"Glass packaging is 100% recyclable and it can be endlessly recycled (closed-loop recycling), without any loss of quality or purity, making it a true cradle-to-cradle material."

Demand for Glass

During 2008 the exporting of recycled packaging glass to the EU for manufacture into new containers did not experience the same downturn in markets as seen with other recycled packaging exports. Export figures for glass rose by 65,000 tonnes on the previous year to 340,000 tonnes.

"The prices offered for glass have seen "little to no change" during 2008," said Rebecca. "The strong domestic market and the lack of intrinsic links to demand from the Far East for glass recyclate have seen prices for recycled glass remain constant.

"Such stability in the glass market offers local authorities and contractors the security of a long term contracts with guaranteed tonnages and prices."

Notes to Editors

Source for Figures:
National Packaging Waste Database - http://npwd.environment-agency.gov.uk

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