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Feature: The glass is greener

A healthily-growing leisure and tourism industry in the south west brings much needed revenue into a less industrially-developed region of the UK. But it also brings a large burden of waste, which is handled by the local authorities. Beer and wine bottle waste is usually collected from the general public at bottle banks, and from pubs, clubs and restaurants in wheelie bins. The bottles are invariably damaged, which isn't an issue if they are going to be crushed up into particles to create a low-value raw material such as green glass aggregate, commonly used in road building.

Pioneering work by Remade Network UK member, Remade Kernow, based in Cornwall, is demonstrating that participation and cooperation from local businesses can really maximise the value of the raw waste to the reprocessor and contribute greatly to a sustainable regional market for recycled material.

The market for recycled green bottle glass in Cornwall faces a problem. Being remote from large-scale processing facilities in regions such as Yorkshire, road transport costs for the collected bottles are greater, reducing value still further. So in 2003 Remade Kernow joined forces with Green Glass UK, a local Cornish recycler, to set up a locally-based bottle collection and processing loop. The project has been supported with a £40,400 grant from the Waste and Resources Action Programme's (WRAP) Regional Market Development Fund.

The demonstration involved comparing the success rates of recycling direct from trade outlets on the one hand, to public collection systems on the other. The trial collections were designed to see whether an effective local supply chain could be established. Remade Kernow successfully sourced various trial sites from the local Cornish hospitality industry and mass tourist attractions.

A local design partner, Leap Media, has been brought in to devise a public collection system for the public location at Looe Bay Holiday Park. This includes an enclosed pallet box located next to the existing recycling centre for the use of the general public, and exhibition style panels with plenty of information to stimulate interest and explain the precise sorting requirements for different brands such as Sol, Corona and Grolsh. Meanwhile, the staff at the selected hostelries are being trained in how to divert bottles from the original disposal process into the branded bins which are collected free of charge. As the trial period draws to a close, the level of compliance of the public has been relatively disappointing despite every attempt made to make instructions clear. It appears that members of the public have a tendency to treat the collection point just like any other glass recycling bin.

In contrast to this, the results of the trained-staff business trial have exceeded expectations: "It works perfectly, and it's cheap," enthuses David Hunt, market development adviser for Remade Keinow. "The businesses no longer need to pay a waste company to take away their commercial waste, and Green Glass is sourcing all its raw material locally, where before bottles were being shipped to Cornwall from all over the country."

In fact, the success of Green Glass was proved in 2001 when it won Recycled Product of the Year in the National Recycling Awards. Director of Green Glass UK, Glenn Slade, is also extremely happy and surprised at the success of the pilot collection system. "The wheelie bin based system has proven a very efficient way for us to collect sorted bottles," he says. "The sorted bottles dovetail very well into our manufacturing process and the bins can b

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