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ANALYSIS: Call to revise glass targets as UK consumes less

The much-awaited report on the amount of glass put onto the UK market prompted proposals for the revision of the business recycling target for the material.

The GlassFlow Report 2012, published on 17 October, suggested that around 2.4 million tonnes of glass were put on the UK market in 2012. The figure is some 300,000 tonnes lower than the amount estimated in the PackFlow 2017 report, a research document on which glass recycling targets for obligated UK producers are set.

The new estimate is based on a more comprehensive study, according to Valpak director of sales and marketing Duncan Simpson.

He said: “Defra’s [previous] estimates were based on the best available data at the time [2009], and predominantly came from Valpak’s PackFlow report. The GlassFlow report builds on that. It strips down every single component part of the glass flow to try to find the most robust estimate.”

On the basis of the latest estimate, the UK recycled 68% of glass in 2012, enough to beat a 60% target set by the EU. The report also indicated that a business target of 70%, instead of the 81% set by Defra, would have delivered compliance.

The findings were reviewed by the Advisory Committee on Packaging, which called for the glass recycling target for businesses to be lowered to 77% to allow for a national achievement of 63%-64% in 2014.

Defra said it would be launching a consultation on whether to change the target.

Last year, prices of Packaging Recovery Notes (PRNs) for glass surged from around £10 per tonne to £75 per tonne, meaning the cost of compliance increased dramatically for producers.

Reducing the glass recycling target would help to relieve the pressure on the glass system, leading PRN prices to decrease, according to Paul Van Danzig, sales marketing director at Wastepack.

If current trends continue, local authority commingled glass collections could reach 70%. “A reduction of the targets would be a positive step for all stakeholders, not only producers,” he said.

Chris Taylor, PRN trader at Clarity Environmental, said many people felt that “a far more realistic price for a glass PRN” would be around £30.

But Tim Gent, director at glass reprocessor Recresco, said the outcome of the GlassFlow report was a positive development for the Government because it indicated that the UK had met its obligations under EU packaging regulations.

He argued that revising the target was unnecessary.“If we reduced the target, PRNs would drop in value to next to nothing,” he said. “If we do not wish the UK to do any better than the bare minimum of EU targets, then we are right [in reducing targets]. If we set targets below what we are already achieving, there would be no contribution from the producers.”

The GlassFlow report also outlined research on illegal glass import and on collection. But it did not suggest splitting targets between glass remelt and aggregate, although the industry was asked about 63% for remelt and 27% for aggregate.

  • Article amended 30 October: In a previous version of the article the PackFlow report was incorrectly attributed to Veolia, we have now amended it to reflect the report was produced by Valpak.

Phil Conran, director at 360 Environmental:

The cynic might suggest this has simply been an exercise to get the numbers to fit. Environmentalists will complain that the Advisory Committee on Packaging report misses the point that glass recycling has stagnated for three years and the targets should be set to re-ignite it.

There will therefore be a dilemma about what level the target should be.

It is also clear that the percentage split between melt and non-melt is way off target, but this has not been tackled.

With an actual 66.5%/33.5% split so far this year, it could be argued that it should be around 70/30 (compared with the current 63/37) to incentivise more colour-separated collections. Without that, frankly, the split is just a pointless complication

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