What a hot summer means for UK glass recycling

Written by: Lisa Templeton | Published:
Viridor processed 22,000 tonnes of bottles over the World Cup period

The UK’s spectacular summer has been dramatically reflected in glass recycling.

Viridor has reported that scorching temperatures have seen Britons quench their thirst and drive quality glass recycling – the company processed 22,000 tonnes of bottles over the World Cup period alone.

According to Viridor’s head of recycling assets (glass) Steven Weaver, this is the equivalent of 73 million wine bottles, or 114.6 million beer bottles.

He says: “The availability of good-quality cullet and the corresponding demand from the bottle manufactures is a clear demonstration of the circular economy in action and emphasises the importance of keeping glass in the UK to achieve a closed-loop recycling solution.

“Here in the UK we have the demand for cullet and, with PRN reviews and the forthcoming Resources and Waste Strategy, we hope to see a reduction in the exposure of exporting glass. UK regulation can support our vision of the UK circular economy.”

He says retaining as much recycled glass in the UK to meet the demand remains the biggest challenge for the sector.

Viridor’s £25m Newhouse glass recycling facility in Scotland opened in 2015 as part of an effort to reduce reliance on imported materials for whisky and other bottles, and is able to recover 97% of input materials.

Local authorities provide the bulk of the feedstock for Newhouse, one of the UK’s most advanced facilities, with the most recent contract being a Scottish Procurement agreement covering the council areas of Angus, Dundee, Perth & Kinross, Scottish Borders and West Lothian.

Newhouse has the capacity to handle up to 200,000 tonnes of glass bottles and MRF-derived material per annum, although it currently handles below this figure. About 20% of the input is from MRF-derived sources.

The facility recently hosted a visit by SEPA CEO Terry A’Hearn, when discussions focused on the opportunities and challenges of Scotland’s ambitious circular economy and how to co-operate and collaborate on retaining more of Scotland’s glass resource in the country.

Ahead of SEPA’s soon-to-be published whisky sector plan, Viridor’s role as a critical supplier to the Scotch whisky sector was noted, along with the Scotch Whisky Association’s new sustainability strategy and commitment to enhanced recycled content.

Circular city

Sheffield Glass, the specialist Viridor recycling facility in England, recently signed a 12-month, 10,000 tonnes per annum contract with Kier Environmental Services for Cheshire West and Chester Council.

Weaver says: “Some of the remelt quality cullet supplied to UK remelters from this contract will be supplied to Encirc, Elton (just five miles away from one of the collection depots in Ellesmere Port), which reinforces our circular economy message.”

Sheffield has the capacity to handle 160kte of glass bottles per annum and, like Newhouse, is a certified end-of-waste (EoW) reprocessor, one of only a handful of UK companies to gain this recognition.

This certification confirms that the finished glass product is of such high quality that it is judged to be a valued raw commodity, rather than waste.

Top Glass

Viridor recycles around 300,000 tonnes of glass every year, with different finished cullet available to match customer requirements. These include EoW process furnace-ready flint cullet, EoW processed furnace-ready amber cullet, EoW processed furnace-ready green cullet, and processed mix-coloured glass fines.

The technologies incorporated at Viridor facilities mean that it can supply high-quality finished products in the food, beverage and pharmaceutical industries.

Weaver explains that recycled glass collected from Viridor’s supply partners is transformed into new glass products, such as whisky, beer and ale bottles or medicine and food jars within just seven days of collection.

He says: “We make the point that not only does recycling glass reduce waste to landfill, it also decreases the need for raw materials and enhances energy consumption in the manufacture of new glass containers.

“Also, glass can be endlessly recycled without any loss of quality – the true meaning of closed-loop recycling.”

He says Viridor rigorously tests outgoing cullet to meet customer requirements and Certificates of Conformity (CoCs) are issued on request. Product quality is also UKAS-verified independently.

In addition, the loss of valuable UK glass bottles to co-mingled collections and overseas markets negatively impacts Viridor. Contamination is a challenge, with a move towards less segregation resulting in more contamination of non-glass bottle and jar materials. Contaminants include ceramics, stones, porcelain and heat-resistant glass, including Pyrex, which has a higher melting point than bottle glass.

Next Generation

In order to increase awareness of glass recycling, Viridor has worked with British Glass on a project which helps children become “glass guardians” as part of a National Schools Partnership project.

Glass Guardians is for 7- to 11-year-olds and it teaches children about the importance of glass recycling and how it is 100% recyclable, and which can be remelted indefinitely and made back into bottles and jars with no loss of quality.

British Glass has highlighted the fact that around one-third of the bottles and jars used in the UK did not get the chance to be made into new glass, often because people do not recycle.

Glass Guardians provides teachers with a full set of fun cross-curricular materials including an engaging video, activity sheets and teacher’s notes.

Viridor and glass manufacturer Ardagh provided footage for a Glass Guardians video which demonstrates the process so children can see the circular economy in action.

It also was involved in a project designed to prevent any glass going to waste and this had also prompted Viridor to host a BBC Cbeebies ‘Down On The Farm’ visit to Newhouse.

He adds that the message to consumers remained an appeal for everyone to put the ‘Right Stuff in the Right Bin’. As with all recyclate, this is the best thing we can all do to boost recycling efforts, create closed-loop recycling solutions and a more circular economy for everyone in the UK.

Lisa Templeton is media and campaigns manager at Viridor

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