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A recent survey found that a growing number of Americans say recycling is important to them and significantly impacts their food and beverage purchasing decisions. The study, commissioned by the Glass Packaging Institute (GPI) and other organizations, was conducted by EcoFocus Worldwide.
In the 2013 survey of over 4,000 nationally representative adults ages 18-65, over 75% said recycling is important to them. When asked whether or not using packaging that is made with renewable or recycled resources influences their choice of brands, products or services, consumers overwhelmingly indicated that it did, with more than 65% stating that it was either an extremely or very positive influence over their choices.
Container Recycling Stalls
While a growing chorus of consumers want to recycle—and to choose packaging made from recycled materials—a 2013 Container Recycling Institute study found that between 2000 and 2010, the rate at which we recycled empty containers declined. The report entitled “Bottled Up: Beverage Container Recycling Stagnates (2000-2010)” shows that while sales of disposable beverage containers grew dramatically—up by 22% from 2000-2010—with per capita consumption soaring by 8% over the same period, more containers didn’t make it into the recycling bin.
Of the 243 billion beverage packages sold in the U.S. in 2010—glass bottles, plastic bottles and aluminum cans, as well as foil pouches, gabletop cartons, and other nontraditional containers—153 billion were either landfilled, littered, or incinerated. There are several reasons for this disparity, including an increase in bottled water purchasing and increased sales of beverages consumed away from home, but it also reflects the increase in single-stream collection of recyclables, which can result in more contamination. This is especially true for glass containers, and it means that fewer of them can be recycled back into new glass containers.
Industry Commitment to Glass Bottle Recycling
While all recycling is important, glass recycling is unique in terms of the impact it can have on the environment. For example, energy costs drop about 3% for every 10% of recycled glass used in the manufacturing process. Glass container manufacturing facilities use recycled glass every day in the production of new containers, translating into significant energy usage reductions.
Glass is also unique in that it is truly 100% recyclable, and the GPI continues to strongly support a closed-loop manufacturing and recovery process (i.e., bottle-to-bottle recycling), which demonstrates the greatest benefits for the environment, energy, and land-use considerations.
In early 2009, the GPI set a goal of using at least 50% recycled glass in the manufacture of new glass bottles and jars. At that time, use of recovered glass (known as cullet) in the industry averaged about 29%. In 2013, average cullet use was up to 33%.
This steady increase shows the industry’s commitment to the environmental and economic benefits of using recycled glass, both to consumers and in the manufacturing process. Consumers of glass products want to recycle and to purchase products in glass packaging that contains recycled content; we want to help them do that.
The GPI has many resources for individuals and businesses to help close the loop on recycling, and we encourage everyone to stand up and have their glass counted—and recounted. Learn more about recycling initiatives at www.gpi.org.
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.