Glass reprocessors struggling to find enough high quality cullet for remelting are having to import cullet, according to some in the industry.
Due to the declining quality of cullet being produced in the UK many firms are either importing cullet to top up glass levels or are using plate glass.
In 2008 the UK recycled 1.6 million tonnes of cullet but only 662,000 tonnes of this is going back into the closed-loop recycling system to be remelted into new bottles and jars. Around 340,000 tonnes is exported for remelt in Europe and an estimated 100,000 tonnes is used in fibre glass manufacture with the remaining 500,000 tonnes going to aggregates.
British Glass recycling manager Rebecca Cocking said: Some UK glass manufacturers are importing or using plate glass because they cant get enough from the domestic market as a result of collection method decisions made by local authorities. This ends up with glass being crushed and mixed up with all sorts of other materials, so the glass cannot be viably extracted.
Were crying out for more material thats of a decent quality.
According to Cocking, firms are importing cullet rather than using primary glass in order to keep commitments to reduce their CO2 emissions. Remelting cullet is much more energy efficient compared with using batch and many firms are importing from countries in close proximity to the UK.
Glass packaging container producer Beatson Clark is not importing cullet but technical manager John Osborne said it could use small amounts of plate glass if necessary.
He added: Firms are having difficulties getting enough cullet supply from the UK. Were very short of white flint (clear) glass at the moment and this is really because of the comingling collection method many local authorities use. They have moved away from bottle bank collections too, which used to produce good quality feedstock and colour separation. So, a lot of glass that isnt a good enough quality goes into aggregate.
Glassmaker O-I recycling development manager Martin Langshaw said: O-I supports the Waste and Resources Action Programmes analysis that kerbside sort is the best system for providing quality recyclate.
Glass packaging industry provides the best and most stable market for cullet in terms of financial value, environmental benefit and long term durability. That is why it is a scandal that so much glass has been lost to short-term alternatives over the past few years. Indeed, O-I has been forced to import cullet to keep our furnaces running effectively.
As the glass industry continues to invest to increase still further the level of cullet which can be put into each new bottle, we look to support from local authorities and WRAP to secure the right quantities of high grade material.