Project to test lightweight glass containers in food sector

By Ahmed ElAmin

- Last updated on GMT

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A new project launched in UK could help processors cut down on the
amount of glass they use, with the promise of costs savings and
ultimately cutting down on packaging waste.

The Waste Resources Action Programme (Wrap) yesterday called on food processors andretailers to take part in a series of trials involving lightweight glass containers.

The project, called GlassRite Food, is focused on promoting the use of lightweight glass containersfor food products, soft drinks and flavoured alcoholic beverages.

Wrap is a government-backed programme charged with ensuring that the UK meets EU requirements on reducing waste throughout the bloc.Government is focusing on retailers so they can push their suppliers to cut down on packaging waste, either by reducing the amount they use for their products, or byusing more recyclable, reusable and biodegradable materials.

The new Wrap project aims to take 20,000 tonnes of glass out of the waste chain by its completion in March2008. Other related projects associated with the programme can result in a further cut of 45,000 tonnesin the first year following the project, Wrap stated.

"If successful, the project could save 65,000 tonnes of glass and 48,000 tonnes of carbon emissions by 2009 - the equivalent of taking 28,000 cars off the road,"​ Wrap stated.

The project will develop, test and launch a range of new container designs designed to promote the commercial and environmental benefits of moving to lightweight containers.

"Container designs will be put through rigorous trials to test their strength, practicality and consumerappeal,"​ Wrap stated.

Experts from the University of Wales, Bangor, will conduct consumer perception tests, while hi-tech wireless sensors will be placed inside containers toassess their performance during handling, filling and packaging.

The GlassRite food project will be led by the Faraday Packaging Partnership, with support from the trade association British Glass. Several leading glass manufacturers, including Allied Glass Containers, O-I, Rockware Glass, Beatson Clark and Quinn Glass, have already agreed toparticipate, said Nicola Jenkin, part of Wrap's retail innovation team.

"With the food, flavoured alcoholic beverage and soft drink sectors accounting for 34 percent of the UK's total container glass use, even a moderate reduction in container weight could deliver significant cost savings, while reducing carbon emissions and glasswaste,"​ she said.

The launch of the GlassRite project follows the success of previous Wrap-funded glass lightweighttrials. Those projects are expect to result in a cut by 32,000 tonnes of glass going into therecycling chain. The project also resulted in several new glass container designs, including a lightweight 300ml Grolsch beer bottle.

Wrap said its work has also shown that significant savings can be made by lightweighting coffee jars. If all UK coffee jars changed to the 'best in class' weight, an additional 15,900 tonnes of glass would be saved each year - saving over £6 million in material and distribution costs, and nearly 12,000 tonnes of carbonemissions, the organisation claimed.

Faraday Packaging Partnership managing director, Walter Lewis, said that by taking designs from the drawing board to the supermarket shelf, GlassRite Food will provide importantinsights into the practical and commercial opportunities for lightweight containers.

"Previous trials have shown that lightweight glass packaging can be strong, practical and popular with consumers, while maintaining brandidentity,"​ he said. "We are confident that these benefits can also be delivered across the food sector."

The UK uses about 2.5 million tonnes of glass bottles and jars a year, of which almost half, or 1.2 million tonnes,was recycled in 2005.

About 80 per cent of recycled glass in the UK is used to make new bottles and jars. Replace virgin raw materials with recycled glass in the manufacturing process can give energy savings of over20 per cent, Wrap stated.

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