Glass is one of the most sustainable materials on earth. It is 100% recyclable and can be re-melted endlessly without ever reducing its quality. The UK glass sector has an excellent recycling record of 68.8%, one of the highest rates of any packaging material.
Despite this high rate, at British Glass we know more can be done, which is why we have set out our ambition to achieve a 90% collection rate by 2030.
To support this ambition, we have launched the #RecycleItRight campaign which calls on the UK Government to exclude glass bottles from a damaging Deposit Return Scheme, which would have a number of negative effects on consumers, the environment, and the wider glass sector upon which over 120,000 jobs depend.
We believe that the best way to improve glass recycling is through Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) which will lead to more investment in recycling infrastructure across the UK, improving collection rates for glass and creating a truly circular economy.
The collection of infographics can be viewed in the PDF below
Including glass in DRS has negative consequences
- It will increase the need for primary raw materials – glass is not recycled in the same way as other packaging materials. While industry has relatively high levels of re-melted glass in green and brown beverage bottles, we need more clear glass to meet demand for food jar and beverage bottle production. However, if glass is crushed which certain DRS systems do, then it cannot be re-melted back into clear glass containers, requiring producers to use primary raw materials instead of re-melted glass.
- It will increase the carbon footprint of the glass industry – glass production actually uses far less CO₂ when re-melting recycled glass than by using raw materials; a saving of 580kg per tonne of re-melted glass. A DRS may achieve its aim of improving the sustainability of other packaging materials, but not for glass.
- It will create consumer confusion – running two glass collection systems in parallel is more confusing for the public, and risks less glass being recycled as a result of a dual system. That’s why the public don’t support it for glass – with over two thirds of the public wanting glass to remain part of household collections.
- It will put at risk kerbside glass recycling – diverting 70% of all glass packaging away from kerbside through a DRS puts at risk the viability of continued kerbside and bottle bank collections of glass; in turn meaning 30% of glass food packaging, which is mainly clear glass, could potentially end up in landfill.
- It would threaten jobs in the glass industry – a major concern about including glass in a DRS scheme is that it will encourage a switch from glass to plastic packaging (as seen in other countries), putting glass industry investment plans and jobs at risk.
The Solution: EPR
We already have a system in place to deliver high quantity and quality of recycled glass, and it is at our doorsteps. A new expanded Extended Producer Responsibility scheme can put in place the right measures to increase the quality and quantity of recycling for the long-term and create a truly circular economy.
It is vital that glass recycling remains at our kerbsides and bottle banks, where we already have an effective system that the public understands. This allows for a better quantity and quality of recycled glass to be collected from a single glass collection system.
Wales: Recycling it right
Wales has been consistently ahead of the rest of the UK when it comes to recycling rates, with the third highest household recycling rate in the world.
In Wales, the capture rate of glass collected in kerbside recycling is 87.3%, the highest of any widely recyclable material.
The Welsh Government has set a target for Wales to become a zero-waste nation by 2050. The example of Wales is proof that a national culture of recycling can lead to significant increases in recycling at the kerbside, which is achievable throughout the rest of the UK if the right model is adopted.
Event report – Getting glass recycling right for the future