British Glass see recycling rates soar following campaign with Marks & Spencer

Written by: Gareth Jones | Published:
An impressive 295,206 tonnes of glass was captured during the month of the promotion

As part of its commitment to increase the quality and quantity of glass to be recycled, this spring British Glass worked in partnership with Marks & Spencer and Leeds City Council to test ways to support glass recycling by consumers.

The initiative was delivered through British Glass’s consumer-facing Friends of Glass campaign and combined the use of both new and traditional channels to deliver some impressive results.

Glass is infinitely recyclable, yet at the moment, 51% of post-consumer glass waste does not get remelted back to glass. This is a problem for the environment and for local authorities, according to councillor Lucinda Yeadon, executive member for environment and sustainability at Leeds City Council.

She says: “Last year more than 15,000 tonnes of glass bottles and jars were thrown away in household bins [in Leeds]. Disposing of that costs the council over £1.5 million in charges that could have been avoided if the glass had been recycled. This is money that would have been better spent on other local services.”

Not all heroes wear capes

The #RecyclingHero campaign invited householders in Leeds to enter a competition by taking a photo of themselves or family and friends recycling bottles or jars at the city’s glass banks. The photo could be taken at any of the 700 glass banks around the city and then uploaded to the Friends of Glass Facebook or Instagram pages. Prizes were offered for the five best photos posted.

“Leeds currently doesn’t operate kerbside glass recycling so the campaign was designed to put the focus on glass banks,” says Brook Hayes, communications manager at British Glass. Specially decorated glass banks sited at the M&S Moortown store in Leeds provided a focal point for the campaign, together with a pop-up in-store roadshow during the two-week promotion.

To make sure residents got the message, leaflets promoting the competition and messages about how to recycle glass locally were delivered to 75,000 households in the catchment area.

Hayes says: “We worked closely with the council to ensure householders had all the information they needed to see how recycling glass benefits the local area and economy as well as the environment. The competition galvanised people into good recycling habits there and then.”

Impressive results

A final touch was the supply of 1,300 complementary Friends of Glass jute bags handed out to M&S shoppers – perfect for bringing back their empty bottles and jars in.

The promotion proved so popular that M&S Moortown has made the decorated glass banks a permanent fixture in its carpark. This is a positive sign at a time when there has been a trend for some retailers to remove glass banks due to pressure on space. Ben Coulson, store manager, says: “#RecyclingHero was a really good and worthwhile promotion. The focus on social media and the local area leaflet drop really engaged the local community.”

Results to date prove that the messages of the campaign hit home. An impressive 295,206 tonnes of glass was captured during the month of the promotion (May 2017), which is the largest weight recorded within the Leeds Moortown area for the month for four years. This represents a 100-tonne increase from May 2016 and is 56 tonnes up on the previous highest record for the month.

Laura Fernandez, packaging technologist at Marks & Spencer, who played a key role in setting up the partnership with British Glass, adds: “Glass is such a valuable, sustainable and healthy material, it’s really important it doesn’t end up going to waste. We were delighted to work with British Glass and Leeds City Council to highlight just how easy glass is to recycle.”

The competition was featured on local TV, radio and in newspapers, reaching nearly a quarter of a million people in and around Leeds, and a further 37,000 through social media.

Entries to the competition show how the idea captured the imagination of residents. Some even went to the effort of dressing up as superheroes or created banners to pose with before posting the results on the Friends of Glass social media pages.

Hayes says: “The great thing about this initiative was for manufacturers to work with a local authority and a retailer, and for us all to learn from each other. Following on from this and other initiatives, British Glass is proactively bringing together players from across the glass packaging supply chain – as part of its Close the Loop initiative – to make sure more glass makes it back to remelt. We’ve shown here that this really can increase glass recycling.”

British Glass is involved with another pilot partnership project with Portsmouth City Council, which is still under way – results are due at the end of 2017.

Close the Loop is an informal group of organisations and professionals from across the glass packaging lifecycle who want to improve the UK’s glass recycling rate. For more information, visit:

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