Glass can be melted down to make new glass products over and over again – it is 100% and endlessly recyclable. In fact, it’s the perfect circular economy material. And making new glass from recycled glass reduces CO2 emissions and energy use. That’s why we’re working with companies at every point in the life cycle of glass products to increase recycling.
Waste glass that has been processed ready for recycling is called cullet. Demand for good quality cullet is always high: glass manufacturers commonly use it to manufacture new bottles, jars, windows and fibre glass, as well as ballotini (tiny glass spheres for industrial uses). For example, our recycled content data for packaging shows that a green wine bottle in the UK will contain, on average, 68% recycled material.
Increasing use of cullet in glass making is a priority in the Glass industry decarbonisation action plan: every tonne of glass re-melted saves 246 kg of carbon dioxide emissions as well as decreasing the energy needed to make glass and reducing reliance on virgin raw materials.
Even when cullet quality is too poor for re-melt (that is, it contains too much of certain non-glass materials), it can still be used for a range of secondary applications, such as aggregate, an additive in building materials (including eco-cements and concretes), water filtration and blast cleaning. This is open-loop recycling (or down-cycling).
But re-melting back to glass (closed-loop recycling) is usually the best environmental option. That’s why British Glass advocates, in line with circular economy principles, that re-melt uses should be prioritised and glass maintained at its highest material value for as long as possible.