Chris Holcroft outlines a major consultancy project for glass recycling in the Russian Federation

Photo: Chris Holcroft, Senior Environmental TechnologistOne of the clear advantages for new and fledgling glass recycling markets, is that they have a host of international role models, best practice and experience to learn from.

So when GTS was commissioned to provide a study into the potential for increasing glass recycling in the Russian Federation, we knew it would be a valuable opportunity, not only to apply international lessons and explore the secrets to successful schemes, but also to share vital knowledge and experience.

Supported by recycling, environment and modelling experts from British Glass,  COWI and SKM Enviros, the project was initiated and supported by The European Bank of Reconstruction and Development and involved working with interested parties across the Russian Federation and beyond.

In Soviet times there were well established systems for the return, refilling and recycling of glass, but since the breakup of the Soviet Union, sending glass to landfill has become the dominant disposal method. We looked at what factors led to increased glass recycling rates in other countries and found some common themes:

  • Education, outreach and public awareness- these are essential to ensure recycling schemes have high participation rates and the glass collected is of high quality.
    Inspiring consumers and, in particular, children that recycling is an important part of modern life, is fundamental. This ranges from multi-national campaigns such as Friends of Glass through to road shows visiting individual communities and housing complexes, which operate in the UK, Hong Kong and other countries.
  • Local champions/managers - having a known person overseeing a recycling scheme in a particular building or area encourages participation and reduces abuse of recycling facilities. It also potentially provides employment opportunities.
    Many successful schemes in large multi-household apartment blocks rely on representatives from the local community to supervise and promote recycling schemes, such as in New York and Toronto.
  • Regulations and incentives- in countries like the Russian Federation, where there is no current culture of recycling, the use of regulation and/or incentives are vital.
    Almost all countries that operate successful recycling schemes have some form of regulation governing the disposal of recyclable materials. In parallel, many countries have some form of deposit scheme that encourages consumers to return their bottles for refilling or recycling. The use of landfill as the lowest cost disposal method needs to be addressed urgently in order to encourage investment in recycling.
  • Convenience - for recycling schemes to be successful it is critical that they do not involve excessive work for the householders. The containers must be close to residences without occupying too much space and segregation procedures must not be complicated.
    In general, kerbside schemes, where material is collected directly from the household, have higher participation rates. However, many countries, including those with the highest recycling glass rates in Europe, still rely on bring banks for their glass collections.
  • Early segregation of different recyclable materials - in order to minimise contamination and maximise revenue, recyclable materials should be separated as early as possible in the collection process, ideally by the householders.
    Despite advances in technology, it is logical that by avoiding the mixing of materials in the first place, the level of contamination and the requirement for downstream processing are reduced. This both increases the value of the product to be sold and reduces the cost of the processing required, although is likely to result in some increase in the collection cost.
  • Producer responsibility - the majority of international schemes place responsibility on the packaging supply chain to arrange and fund recycling schemes, either directly or via membership of “green dot” compliance schemes.
    Goodwill is not enough to ensure increased recycling.  Without legislation placing the responsibility for recycling on to one or more members of the supply chain it is unlikely that any large scale recycling scheme will be sustainable.

Our study concluded that there is an increasing demand for recycled glass in the Russian Federation if the quality and price is correct. The majority of recycled glass is currently recovered from waste destined for landfill sites, but increased environmental awareness and international trade suggests that the government’s rhetoric on implementing waste regulations will come into force. There has never been a better time for the implementation of glass recycling schemes.

The full findings of the study were delivered to interested parties at a workshop event in Moscow in December last year and a summary report is available in both English and Russian (e-mail: c.holcroft@glass-ts.com

Reproduction of this published material is provided courtesy of Glass International - www.glass-international.com. Published in Glass International March 2013.

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