While the tonnage of recycled glass used by the UK container industry has risen slightly compared to 2005, this has been thanks to increased imports of waste glass.
Average recycled content in UK-made glass slipped from 38% to 33% during that period – despite a 13% increase in UK container production, including a 50% increase in amber glass production.
A meeting of glass industry figures in Banbury this autumn heard that the reason for the drop in recycled content is a "shortage of appropriate material".
Minutes from the meeting published by WRAP this week said the consumption of recycled glass was particularly low during July and August this year, with the recycled content of green glass slipping from around 80% to just 53% during August.
A big reason for this was identified as the increasing collection of mixed glass by local authorities, and glass collected commingled with other materials. This has come with the wider use of kerbside collection schemes, which has led to collectors in some cases charging more to provide bring sites.
"Yields from bring sites had fallen with the rollout of kerbside collection schemes," it was explained, "this had led to higher operating costs for bring sites per tonne of glass collected.
The group of industry experts said that "glass collected on a commingled basis and separated at a MRF cannot be generally used for remelt applications". This was because it has "unacceptably high levels of contamination" and by being compacted with other waste can be too dense for automatic colour-sort machines to deal with.
Demand for recycled glass (known as 'cullet') among container manufacturers is still high because replacing virgin materials with recycled materials helps cut energy bills.
But the curious situation has arisen where the UK is now importing increasing amounts of clear and amber waste glass – even while more than 185,000 tonnes of mixed and green glass were exported during the first three quarters of 2006.
The meeting, which was attended by David Workman, director general of glass container industry association British Glass, heard: "Anecdotal evidence of shortages of furnace-ready cullet is supported by market anecdote and data from HM Revenue & Customs, which suggest that imports of cullet have increased."
Thanks to these imports, the overall use of recycled glass by UK container manufacturers has increased by 2% in the first eight months of 2006 to 508,000 tonnes. Data from the trading of producer responsibility evidence for packaging (known as PRNs) revealed a drop in recycling during the third quarter of 2006.
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