Glass recycling: Clear improvement needed Europe-wide

Latest European glass recycling figures show that the UK lags behind the EU average, and that improvement is needed throughout Europe to ensure more glass is recycled.

The figures from FEVE, the European Container Glass Federation, show that the European Union average for glass recycling in 2011 was 70%, which represents more than 11 million tonnes of glass. That year, the UK’s rate was almost 64%, an improvement of more than three percentage points on the previous year. Across the 27 EU Member States, there was an overall improvement of 2.76 percentage points.

Throughout Europe in 2011, recycling meant that over 12 million tonnes of the raw materials used in glass manufacturing were saved. There were energy and emissions savings, too: over seven million tonnes of carbon dioxide (equivalent to the emissions of four million cars), and 2.5% energy for every 10% of glass recycled.

The improvement in rates has been attributed to the glass industry’s design and manufacturing processes, which enable a closed-loop recycling system; 80% of glass collected is repeatedly reused to make recycled glass bottles.

Effective marketing and communication on recycling to consumers, as well as improved collection and processing schemes, have also played a part in the increased recycling of glass. UK glass industry representative British Glass has embraced social media to promote glass recycling to consumers, with a Facebook page that has more than 40,000 fans, and a Twitter feed with 7200 followers. Rebecca Cocking, its Head of Container Affairs, said:

“We’re fully committed to working in partnership with all those along the supply chain to help make glass in landfill sites a thing of the past and to ensure that recycled glass is sent to applications with positive environmental benefit such as back into new bottles and jars.”

British Glass’s approach is in line with FEVE’s view that further improvement is needed to collect the 30% of European glass that is not recycled, in order to achieve greater efficiency. Recycling Lives agrees that more needs to be done in order to ensure that the amount of waste glass is reduced, and this is something for which we constantly strive.

Recycling Lives has developed a closed-loop process to convert crushed glass extracted from cathode ray tubes (CRT) into glass tiles. These tiles offer the construction industry an environmentally sustainable alternative to stone or other ceramic products, as well as synthetics.

Crushed glass from end of life vehicles (ELVs) is also used by the Recycling Lives skip hire department as a shot blast medium to keep skips and containers rust free and ready for regular re-painting.

A further feature of Recycling Lives’ innovative techniques for reuse and recycling is that people supported by our social welfare charity benefit. The charity’s Residents are individuals who have been homeless and unemployed, and are now being supported to gain accommodation and work, some of which involves working on our innovative processes.