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Is the glass market half-empty?

These are uncertain times in the glass market.

A last-minute acceleration at the turn of the year, aided by higher PRN prices, may have ensured the sector got over the compliance finishing line and met 2012 targets, but is there now enough gas in the tank for 2013?

For example, carry-over from 2011 was 57,000 tonnes but this year it was only 16,700 tonnes. Early concern at the prospects, and a welcome collective attempt to better understand glass volatility, have been reported by MRW - see Related Stories (right).

Recresco director Tim Gent also tells MRW in this issue that the cost of compliance is likely to be higher in 2013 and that could be a shock for producers’ budgets. He is concerned that obligated companies will be more likely to view the recycling industry “with suspicion, distrust and increasingly dislike”.

The danger of such alienation was raised by Valpak chief executive Steve Gough earlier this year, when he warned that “some parties may be choosing to drop out from the packaging regulations when the costs rise and will claim that evidence was simply not available”.

Splitting glass targets into ‘remelt’ and ‘aggregate’ was an important step towards greater recycling rather than recovery, but it has added further uncertainty about the market’s ability to hit the targets. Even so, lower PRN prices for poorer quality aggregate should help to boost quality.

When Defra introduced the split, minister Richard Benyon told MPs this could increase capacity for remelt and also support “waste collectors, including local authorities, to collect more glass in a manner which facilitates remelt”. In other words, collected separately.

As far as glass is concerned, was there much point in all that legal wrangling over the UK’s interpretation of the Waste Directive and commingling?

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