Lead rules threaten glass recycling, warn EU glassmakers

A European Commission committee is to meet next month to consider a request for an extension to a Packaging Directive deadline that glass producers believe threatens the future of glass recycling.

The deadline in question refers to the concentration of four heavy metals in packaging, and states that a limit of 100 parts per million must be achieved by the end of June 2006.

The Commission's Packaging Directive scientific and technical progress committee is meeting on February 2 to consider a request to extend this deadline from the European Container Glass Federation (FEVE).

In a letter to European commissioner Stavros Dimas, FEVE said producers are still exceeding the limit for the amount of lead in their container glass "solely from the use of recycled materials".

On average, European Member States are now recycling about 60% of their glass packaging waste, the Federation said, and with the recycling targets demanded by the Packaging Directive, this recycling performance needs to continue.

But, since glass in current circulation exceeds the 100ppm limit, in order to safeguard current levels of glass recycling and glass packaging exports, FEVE are asking the deadline to be put back beyond 2015.

Andrew Somogyi, secretary-general of FEVE, said that the deadline should be put back beyond the transition period when all EU Member States must reach the recycling targets of the Packaging Directive.

The Federation said that since glass is now seen as inert by EU law, extending the deadline for heavy metal content would have little or no negative impact on the environment. Backing up this claim, FEVE pointed out that under EU waste electrical and electronic equipment legislation, lead in a glass matrix is exempt from bans on hazardous substances.

Mr Somogyi said: "Due to its inherent properties, glass packaging has been shown to meet the highest environmental and health standards with regard to any possible concerns about the migration from it of heavy metals."

The predominant "closed loop" nature of glass recycling meant that European container glass will continue to "unintentionally" contain lead in excess of 100ppm, the Federation said. Although producers are attempting to minimise lead content in their glass, no commercially viable process for removing lead from glass is yet available, FEVE warned.

At the February meeting, the European Commission committee is also to consider harmonised standards for the recycling and recovery of packaging waste across Europe and a system of identification for packaging materials.

600450 Lead rules threaten glass recycling, warn EU glassmakers glassonweb.com

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