European nations recycled 25 billion glass bottles with a stable recycling rate of 68%, according to new figures published today by the European Container Glass Federation (FEVE).
In the UK, the average total glass recycling figure stands at 61%, although only 600,000 tonnes of the total 1.6m tonnes collected is currently being sent for remelt. 400,000 tonnes continues to be destined for aggregates, which is of lower environmental benefit than glass remelted for use in new bottles and jars.
Of highest environmental benefit is the closed loop system, where bottles and jars are recycled back into bottles and jars again. In Europe, 80% of collected glass bottles and jars are recycled in this way.
By recycling glass, in 2010 the EU saved more than 12 million tonnes of raw materials (sand, soda ash and limestone), equal to two Egyptian Pyramids’ worth of sand and other raw materials. Also, more than 7 million tonnes of C0₂ was avoided, equal to taking 4 million cars off the road.
In the UK last week, the Chancellor announced in his Budget changes to Packaging Regulations which will set new Government targets for recycled materials. This will see glass recycling split into sub-categories in an effort to boost the amount of glass that is sent to re-melt.
Rebecca Cocking, Head of Container Affairs at British Glass comments: “We welcome the new targets but would still urge the Government that while Local Authorities are not subject to this Legislation, there is a danger that too much cullet will continue to end up in our roads instead of back on the shelf.”
FEVE has recently worked with ACR+ the Association of Cities and Regions for Recycling and Sustainable Resource Management to promote good practices in glass recycling in Europe.
The report says separated waste collection schemes should be widely supported if we are to build a circular economy for glass packaging. In May 2012 the EU Commission is due to announce a new legal status for post consumer glass (cullet) – giving cullet a status of non-waste, a measure that is likely to help further increase glass recycling rates.
“Glass collection and recycling is the perfect component of a circular economy,” says Niall Wall, President of FEVE. “As there is still 32% of glass that is not yet collected our goal is to get this precious resource back in the bottle-to-bottle loop.
“With the help of national and EU authorities, collectors and processors we want to increase the quantities of good quality glass collected so that we can recycle more in our plants.”