Glass Works: Glass Bottle Recycling Benefits and Barriers
While consumers clearly know that glass is 100% recyclable, they need to have confidence that the important action they take to recycle glass bottles will result in new glass containers.
A new U.S. survey of just over 4,000 adults finds that 65% “strongly agree” or “agree” that glass bottles are 100% recyclable, and 73% always or usually recycle whatever they can. But barriers to recycling glass containers remain for some consumers, and 46% believe that many of the recyclables dropped in their recycling bin still go to the landfill.
Conducted during March and April by EcoFocus Worldwide, and commissioned by the Glass Packaging Institute (among other organizations), the survey shows that while Americans have an appreciation for the strong environmental benefits of recycling glass containers, there may be obstacles to taking that action.
A Positive Outlook
Consumers seem to have a better recycling profile for glass packaging over other packaging materials, and they generally have positive attitudes about recycling. Just over half (51%) of respondents say “environmental impact” influences their packaging decisions, and 77% said glass bottles and jars have a “positive” or “no impact” on the environment.
A full 65% say that they always or usually recycle their glass containers, and just over 76% of respondents “strongly agree” or “agree” that recycling is important to them. But 45% of respondents “strongly agree” or “agree” that many of the recyclables they put into their recycling bins still go to a landfill, and 53% believe they would recycle more if they knew the materials were reliably recycled.
Recycling Collection and Skepticism
Some of the reason for the consumer lack of confidence that materials are actually recycled is that the majority (57%) recycle their glass bottles in the same container as other recyclables, called single-stream recycling. While convenient and easy for consumers, this form of curbside collection can have an impact on the quality of the materials collected for recycling and limit their potential use in remanufacture. This is especially true for glass containers.
While most respondents (60%) recycle through some type of curbside program, glass bottle recycling participation may be highest in states with container deposit programs. This type of collection also generates the highest-quality glass for recycling.
Just over 75% of survey respondents who live in the 10 container deposit states return their bottles or cans for deposit—and eventual recycling. I
Barriers to Glass Bottle Recycling
While the majority of survey respondents say they want to recycle and think it’s important, they outline a number of reasons for not recycling their glass containers. Heading up the list is lack of awareness, with 22% saying they’re “not sure glass is recyclable in my area.” This is followed by “too much effort” (19%), glass not being accepted in their recycling program (18%) and concerns about glass breaking (17%).
It’s around these barriers where we need to step up efforts. This includes ensuring that consumers have access to glass container recycling, and that there is education for local residents to improve awareness about how and where to recycle in their area.
And, while consumers clearly know that glass is 100% recyclable, they need to have confidence that the important action they take to recycle glass bottles will result in new glass containers. Get more findings from the survey at www.gpi.org.
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Any views or opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not represent those of Ceramic Industry, its staff, Editorial Advisory Board or BNP Media.