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Packing a punch

Four years may sound a long time, but consider how quickly despair at being knocked out of Euro 2000 has turned to anticipation of the start of Euro 2004. In the same time again, the UK will need to hit tough glass packaging recycling targets. And that could be an even greater challenge than beating France on Sunday night.

Trade association British Glass this week published Glass Recycling Report 2004, which lays out the investment it feels is necessary to comply with European packaging laws. The report calls for 6 million extra homes to receive kerbside glass collections, 50,000 new glass banks and glass collection from 44,000 more pubs.

Such steep measures are needed because the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive requires the UK to recycle 60% of its glass packaging in 2008. This equates to almost 1.5m tonnes of glass recycling that year 600,000 tonnes more than was carried out in 2003.

British Glass says the industry can turn more than 1m tonnes of waste glass into new containers annually, using current technology. The organisation insists such closed-loop recycling is the most environment-friendly option but says manufacturers cannot access all the waste glass they could use.

So it is calling for a huge increase in glass collection across the UK and has pledged the support of manufacturers for this drive.

The report states: Clearly we have a long way to go. The glass packaging industry has capacity for more than 1 million tonnes of recycled glass. Combined with alternative uses, this is enough to meet these high targets, if the glass can be collected.

We recognise that this can only be achieved by all those involved in the collection system, including the glass packaging industry, working together to make glass recycling even more accessible to the public.


After collection issues, the main problem facing glass recyclers is a colour imbalance between collected glass and that which is produced.

About 50% of recovered glass is from green imported wine and beer bottles, while only 19% of the glass ordered in the UK is that colour.

So all green bottles made here contain 85% recycled glass leaving a limited capacity for growth in this area. Alternative uses for green glass are therefore needed.

A British Glass spokesman said: While recycling glass into new containers is the best environmental use for glass, other viable markets will be essential if the UK is to reach its 2008 target.

More than this, a balanced approach will be required, with an open approach being taken, which allows alternative markets to develop but focuses them on green glass.

This is one of the many challenges for the Waste and Resourses Action Programme (WRAP) and the glass packaging industry is actively supporting where possible.

WRAP acknowledges that the colour issue is key to increasing glass recycling, and published its own report on the subject this week.

The market-development body spent £48,000 on a research project, run by a steering committee including a number of glass manufacturers.

It found there was scope for further investigation into some methods of removing the colouring from green glass so it can be turned into clear containers.

The chromium and iron that colour the glass in the first place are powerful, and the decolouriser needed to remove them can leave the finished container grey.

But the report suggests that it should be possible to increase the amount of green glass used to make clear glass by 8,000 tonnes per year. And it also says there is the potential to use 75,000 tonnes of green glass in making amber glass, although this could be difficult.

WRAP and the glass-manufacturing industry are now meeting to discuss the report and plan a way forward. Both parties agree that an increase in both closed-loop recycling and alternative markets for waste glass is essential.

WRAP sector manager for glass Andy Dawe said: The container glass industry is already d

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