British Glass fully supports all measures to increase glass recycling.
In 1977 the ﬁrst bring bank (bottle bank) was introduced in Barnsley and sites grew up all over the UK. This has meant that in the last 35 years we have seen steady growth in colour-separated glass recycling and that the glass industry (long before other industries) has been making massive reductions in energy usage, emissions, quarrying and items going to landﬁll. Such closed-loop recycling means that the bottles and jars collected can be recycled inﬁnitely without losing quality or purity.
Since local authorities have brought in other collection methods, bring banks are reducing. Expanding bring bank sites and making bring banks more accessible is seen as the best option at the lowest cost for increasing the amount of colour-separated glass collected, solving the current problem of quality and colour imbalance.
Every tonne of quality recycled cullet used in the manufacture of new glass bottles and jars saves 670 kg of CO2 and 1.2 tonnes of virgin raw materials from being quarried (according to FEVE, which is the association of the European glass container and machine-made tableware manufacturers). As a single layer material it is 100% recyclable, pure and sustainable.
Some local authorities originally implemented kerbside collection schemes with the view of making it easier and more convenient for the public to recycle their glass. Originally it was - and in some places still is—collected and colour-separated by collection crews. More recently, some authorities are collecting a variety of materials such as glass, metal, plastic and paper, and comingling these together.
Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs)
Glass which is collected comingled is usually separated from other materials at a MRF. In most cases, glass sorted through a MRF is of too low quality to be suitable for returning to container manufacture and therefore gets used in other markets such as aggregates. Some local authorities have introduced comingled collection schemes because they believe they are oﬀering householders a door-to-door service which increases the amount of glass collected. This has brought about a decrease in recycled glass going back into bottles and jars, even though closed-loop recycling has proven its beneﬁts time and time again.
Although new technology at some stage in the future may well be advanced enough to produce good quality recycled glass through MRF sorting, there is still some way to go before this happens.
An energy audit by ADAS Consultancy (“Energy Audit of Kerbside Recycling Services 2008”) concluded the carbon footprint for comingled collections is 37.43 kg CO2/tonne; that of colour-separated is 21.11 kg CO2/tonne.
The energy saving from recycling a single bottle will power a 100-watt light bulb for almost an hour or a colour TV for 20 minutes.