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Commingled glass ‘a disaster for us’

Dryden Aqua is hailed as exemplifying innovation and offering a high-value green glass waste solution – but only 5% of its feedstock comes from the UK because of poor quality.

In November 2013, Dryden Aqua’s £5m plant in Bonnyrigg, Midlothian, with a 40,000-tonne a year capacity, was opened by environment secretary Richard Lochhead. It uses recycled green glass as a raw material to create a high-value water filtration medium that can target and remove water-borne parasites and pollutants. It can be used to filter drinking water, swimming pools and to treat industrial waste water. It is sold to markets worldwide: 90% is exported.

At the plant’s opening, Lochhead heralded the recycling facility as “a major investment in Scotland’s green credentials”, placing the nation “at the forefront of the move towards a zero waste nation”. Iain Gulland, director of Zero Waste Scotland (ZWS) added: “By turning a waste material into a high-value product, Dryden Aqua exemplifies the innovation and systems thinking we need more of, if we are to achieve our vision for a circular economy.”

But company chairman and founder Dr Howard Dryden has told MRW that only 5% of his feedstock currently comes from the UK; the remainder is imported because the quality of UK material is an issue.

Commingled glass

He says: “It is very basic – if you are looking for green glass, then you want green glass, let’s say more than 95% green. But the best you can get in the UK is about 80% green. You want less than 50g per tonne of organics but in the UK it is about 1kg of organics.”

Interestingly, he adds that the new regulations that came into play in Scotland in January have not made a huge amount of difference to quality, and that the best quality glass was that available about 15 years ago: “It’s in the past 10 or so years that it has deteriorated dramatically.”

He believes the answer for manufacturers like Dryden Aqua, which are using ‘waste’ as a raw material in a high-value manufacturing process, is investment in “proper kerbside collection of the glass”. He will not take material from commingled collections, saying “that is just a disaster zone for us”. He is not a fan of bring banks either, which he says also attract contaminants, or of collecting glass of different colours together and separating it later.

Dryden imports glass from countries such as Germany and Belgium – material that is collected at kerbside, free from other materials. He explains: “We are not a waste company, we are a filter manufacturer, so we cannot deal with waste. That is why the quality of the raw material coming in to us has to be of a high quality.”

He also does not see the sense in having an operation sitting between a council and a manufacturer, such as himself, that cleans up the glass: “Is it not much better for local authorities just to take a wee bit more care and attention over what they are doing, and not mix it with all the other waste so they have a clean product? It makes more sense to me to go back to the root of the problem and avoid the contamination in the first place. And then finance the proper collection of the glass to make the whole thing sustainable. Right now, it is not sustainable in the UK.”

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