Glass recycling up 17%, but further growth threatened

New figures from British Glass have revealed a 17% increase in the amount of UK glass packaging recycled in 2004 compared to the previous year.

However, the container manufacturers' trade association warned that future growth is threatened by the "astonishing" increase in the collection of mixed glass by councils and a lack of markets for green glass.

British Glass also warned that because of the current Packaging Waste Recovery Note (PRN) system of investment, the 2005 recovery targets "will not stretch the supply of recycled glass" – limiting the investment that is required now to reach 2008 recovery targets under the European Packaging Directive.

While figures are yet to be confirmed by Defra, British Glass revealed that the use of recycled glass by the UK container industry has grown by 58,000 tonnes to about 675,000 tonnes in 2004.

Figures from Customs & Excise suggest exports have risen to 145,000 tonnes, the organisation added. Exports now make up abut 66% of the UK market for recycled glass, British Glass believes – a significant drop from the 72% seen in 2003.

If current trends continue – especially with the increase in the collection of mixed glass from local authority kerbside collections – British Glass said by 2008 the UK would need to export up to 800,000 tonnes of glass by 2008. This is because there is not enough domestic demand for green glass, it believes.

Container manufacturers currently use 311,000 tonnes of green glass each year, Mr Hartley said, but while capacity exists to reprocess over a million tonnes of glass each year overall, most of this "can only come from more clear and brown glass".

British Glass said glass recyclers are finding it difficult to secure markets for all the extra green glass being collected, describing current level of stocks of green glass as "unprecedented".

Mr Hartley said difficulties still centre around a lack of commercially viable alternative markets for green glass. He said: "While WRAP – the Waste and Resources Action Programme – has proven the technical feasibility of glass in novel applications such as bricks and water filters; and while WRAP remains optimistic on the ultimate availability of these potentially high volume, higher value alternative markets, they are not as yet commercially viable.

"The development of existing and higher value alternative markets is therefore a crucial aspect of continued UK growth," Mr Hartley warned.

Bring banks
British Glass said it was alarmed at the growth in the number of bring banks now collecting green glass – 15% of glass is now collected in mixed bring banks, the new figures show. The organisation believes separate colour bring banks should be just as easy for local authorities, and provide more income from the separated clear and brown glass.

The organisation said that for every tonne of clear glass from mixed glass collections, three tonnes of green glass arise.

Nevertheless, British Glass is still urging more to be done to boost local authority glass collections if the European recycling target of 60% of glass packaging waste is to be met in 2008. Attention was especially needed, Mr Hartley said, since councils are focusing on other – biodegradable – materials with the Landfill Allowance Trading Scheme (LATS) starting in just days.

Mr Hartley said: "In order for glass recycling to achieve its 60% target, continued, focussed investment at local authority level is needed. Despite the growing focus on LATS, glass collection from households needs to double in the next four years."

600450 Glass recycling up 17%, but further growth threatened
Date: 24 March 2005

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