Glass Works: Glass Container Industry Pursues Sustainability Goal
Recycled content used in the glass container industry continues to grow.
Recognizing the need to protect the environment and conserve valuable energy resources, the Glass Packaging Institute (GPI) announced in December 2008 that its member companies were committed to using at least 50% recycled glass in the manufacture of new glass bottles and jars by 2013. More recovered glass in the manufacturing mix allows for significant reductions in energy use at plants and related greenhouse gas emissions. It also saves natural resources. This not only provides abundant environmental benefits, but also makes good economic sense.
When GPI embarked on the goal, the glass container industry did not have aggregate (i.e., “average”) data on the percentage of post-consumer recycled glass used to manufacture new glass containers. Using existing recovery and recycling reports, along with information provided independently by member companies, GPI estimated that the industry had a recycled content rate of approximately 25% in 2008, when the goal was established.
To calculate the amount of recycled content used in glass manufacturing and measure growth going forward, GPI began collecting data, using an independent company, to aggregate and report on the industry’s progress. This new data show an increase of eight percentage points, from 25% to approximately 33% in 2013, in the use of recycled content for the manufacture of new glass bottles and jars.
While the industry did not meet its ambitious goal, it is on the way and committed to a variety of efforts to get there. This includes broad initiatives to help boost the glass recycling rate and ensure that a clean stream of recovered glass containers is available to make new glass bottles and jars.
Reaching 50% Recycled Content
The use of 33% recycled glass in 2013 represents an average. Many glass container plants use more than 90% recycled glass in the manufacturing process, and those that use much less often do so because they do not have access to a steady supply of recycled glass containers.
Thus, success in reaching 50% recycled content is directly tied to improving the recycled glass recovery rate. This includes both the quantity and quality of glass containers collected through a variety of recycling programs at curbside, in hotels, restaurants and bars, and through container deposit programs.
The increase since 2008 in the use of recycled glass is the result of efforts by GPI and its member companies to help ensure that recycled glass, or any material collected for recycling, is ultimately used in the manufacture of new products. This includes glass industry initiatives to:
• Examine the effectiveness of current recycling systems
• Better understand the final disposition of collected recyclables to improve sourcing and procurement of recovered glass for reuse in new container manufacturing
• Promote programs that have demonstrated their ability to produce high-quality recycled glass, including encouraging legislatures to create or expand existing beverage container recycling refund programs in conjunction with other recycling programs
GPI member companies have also established targeted multi-partnership initiatives to help generate a greater volume of high-quality recycled glass. For example, glass manufacturer Owens-Illinois (O-I) formed a national “Glass to Glass” partnership with glass recycling company e-Cullet, Inc. The initial effort focuses on using advanced technology and equipment to increase the recycled glass remelted at O-I’s Portland, Ore., manufacturing facility.
Glass container manufacturer Verallia North America* also began collaborating in 2010 with several Indianapolis area bars and restaurants, glass recycler Strategic Materials, Inc., and Green Broad Ripple to boost recycling and recovery of glass containers locally. It has proven a “win” for all partners and a model for other communities.
*On April 11, 2014, Ardagh Group announced that it completed its acquisition of Verallia North America. The new company is called Ardagh Glass, Inc.
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.