New research promises breakthrough for recycled glass

By Mike Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Retailer demand for recycled glass could rocket after new UK research commissioned by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP).

The study, conducted in partnership with Sainbury’s, found that consumers are just as likely to buy products in jars and bottles made from mixed colour recycled glass as they are to buy items in clear glass packaging.

A WRAP spokesperson told FoodProductionDaily.com that: “The research… should boost demand for containers with high recycled content. It could stimulate a market within the container glass industry for green cullet ​(broken glass for recycling)… which means more of the mixed glass cullet already collected is diverted away from landfill and low value end uses such as aggregates which do not deliver the CO2 savings​.

But,one tonne of cullet used for remanufacture, instead of virgin raw materials, provides a CO2 saving of 315kg​.”

Net importer

At present clear (flint) glass accounts for 64 per cent of the demand for recycled cullet from UK container glass manufacturers. Amber makes up 20 per cent and green only 16 per cent. “The result of this scenario is that the UK has become a net importer of green glass much of which is currently going into secondary markets such as aggregates​,” said the spokesperson.

Marcus Gover, WRAP’s director of market development said: "This study should give retailers the confidence to use more recycled glass in their products - in the knowledge that it will not adversely affect sales. This is good news for the recycling industry as it could help to stimulate a high value market for mixed colour recycled glass in the UK. This in turn may provide the impetus to divert more of this glass away from landfill and secondary markets and into closed loop recycling​."

Support for Gover’s view came from Paula Chin, Sainsbury’s grocery packaging technologist. "Ultimately it’s all about getting the customer offer right and if our customers are interested, we are interested,” ​said Chin. “The positive results from this small-scale study would give Sainsbury’s the confidence to explore further the opportunity to use recycled glass containers​."

Carbon dioxide

WRAP is tendering for a large-scale trial to manufacture containers with a mixed colour recycled glass content of over 90 per cent. The target is to consume at least 30,000t of mixed colour recycled glass otherwise destined for landfill or secondary markets. That would deliver at least 18,000t of carbon dioxide reduction, said the organisation.

The research was conducted by Glass Technology Services on behalf of WRAP, Leeds University Psychology Department and Sainsbury’s.

Meanwhile, the marketing promotion Choose Glass Week​ begins on Monday 21 September. A series of events will be staged across Europe to promote the environmental benefits of glass, according to the European Container Glass Federation.

Promotional events are planned to take place in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain and UK.

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