The importance of sustainability in glass recycling

Written by: Fiacre O’Donnell | Published:
Fiacre O’Donnell, head of strategic development at glass manufacturer and bottler Encirc

Manufacturers are key players in the fight to reduce Europe's carbon footprint. Here, Fiacre O'Donnell, head of strategic development at glass manufacturer and bottler Encirc, looks at the importance of sustainability within the sector.

According to data from Eurostat, manufacturers are accountable for around a fifth of all greenhouse gas emissions in Europe. With an increasing demand for products, this figure is at risk of rising. However, by employing simple sustainability initiatives and waste minimisation operations, duty holders can keep their carbon footprints under control.

There are a number of incentives for manufacturers to increase their own levels of sustainability. The Manufacturing Commission has estimated that by being more environmentally friendly, around £10billion of additional profit and 300,000 jobs can be brought into the UK’s sector at the same time as a 4.5 per cent reduction of total annual greenhouse gases.

Being more environmentally responsible is also a key factor in today’s marketplace as customers look for greener products and processes. One of our own customer relationship surveys carried out in 2015, revealed that 77% of our own customers chose with Encirc based on its commitment to sustainability.

Manufacturing sustainably

So how can manufacturers increase sustainability within their own operations? Investing in the latest technologies and machinery is one method. This may seem like a costly venture, but machines built today, rather than 15 years ago, are much more likely to have been designed with energy efficiency in mind.

Taking a holistic approach to reducing a product’s carbon footprint during its route to market is also a worthwhile approach. By examining all elements of a supply chain, manufacturers can significantly cut the impact of their products. By making greater use of international rail networks for instance, instead of HGVs, companies can reduce their annual mileage and decrease associated emissions. At Encirc, a rail head has been installed to transport sand and other raw materials directly to the site, reducing carbon emissions by nearly 245,000 tonnes and saving more than a million kilometres every year.

Benefits of glass

Using recyclable materials to create products is one of the most effective ways to cut carbon from the outset of the manufacturing process. Glass, for example, contributes only one per cent of waste to the UK and as an infinitely recyclable material, meaning it can be used again and again without losing any quality.

The latest figures from the European Container Glass Federation (FEVE) suggest that the average recycling rate for glass packaging across Europe is at around 73%. In the UK, this figure is below average at just 68%, showing there is still much work to be done.

With both National Recycling Week and Zero Waste Week this month, we are reminded of the importance of sustainability. Ensuring manufacturers get the most of raw materials and reduce waste to a minimum is vital if we are to protect our environment and boost our economy.

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