UK increases recycled glass volume

Around 1.5 million tons of container glass was recycled in the UK in the past twelve months, through June 2008. This is 200,000 tons more than the previous year, according to the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP).

However, although there was an increase in the amount of cullet going into remelt applications – including domestic container manufacture, glass wool and export – the majority of the increase was absorbed by the aggregates market. Moreover, the amount of cullet used by the UK container manufacturing industry remains substantially below the peak reached in 2006. For the first time, in 2007, less than half of the container glass recovered for recycling was used in domestic container remelt.

Glass industry sources indicate that this reflects a shortage of high quality color-separated cullet, which they attribute to increases in both mixed-color and co-mingled glass collections.

The combination of increasing production and falling cullet use has lowered the recycled content of UK-produced glass containers, from 36 percent in 2005 to around 30 percent in 2007. The most significant decline has been in green furnaces, which are currently operating with a cullet content of less than 70 percent, compared with around 85 percent in 2005. This is significantly lower than the technical limit, which suggests that the so-called ‘green glass mountain’ may have disappeared, a stark contrast to recent years.

In addition, it is estimated that around 80,000 tons of flat glass was used in domestic container glass furnaces in 2007. Industry contacts have indicated that they are using more flat cullet, in part owing to shortages of clear container cullet, although there are technical limitations due to differing glass chemistries. Exports of cullet for overseas container manufacture rose by over 40,000 tons in the year to June 2008.