Industry Leaders Join Forces to Strengthen Glass Recycling
Glass container recycling can pose unique challenges to the recycling infrastructure if not planned for and executed correctly.
The Glass Packaging Institute (GPI), along with beverage leaders—including Diageo and New Belgium Brewing—and the glass processing and recycling industries, have gathered a dynamic group of organizations to advance glass recycling in the U.S. Called the U.S. Glass Recycling Coalition, the nearly two dozen member organizations will aim to make glass recycling a successful industry, as well as the efficient, high-quality, and convenient service consumers want and expect. This is the first time companies across the entire glass supply chain have come together around a common goal.
Glass is one of the only packaging materials that’s 100% recyclable and can be made into new containers over and over again with no loss of purity or quality. On average, new glass bottles for food and beverages contain 33% recycled glass (some as high as 100%). In 2015, the glass container and fiber glass manufacturing industries purchased 3.2 million tons of recycled glass to make new containers and fiber glass products.
The issue is a perfect storm of economic forces facing the U.S. recycling system today, making it harder to recycle glass. Glass container recycling can pose unique challenges to the recycling infrastructure if not planned for and executed correctly. In addition, a few municipalities have decided to remove glass from their curbside recycling programs and instead send this valuable resource to landfills. This trend is environmentally harmful and confuses the public, who understand that glass can be recycled into new products.
As founding partners in this coalition, the GPI is excited to partner with stakeholders along the entire value chain to work together on practical and targeted solutions to return more recycled glass back to manufacturers for new bottles and jars, as well as fiber glass insulation. This is important because for glass container and fiber glass manufacturers, the demand for quality recycled glass dramatically exceeds current supply. And for companies like Diageo and New Belgium Brewing, glass is not being recycled at a high enough rate to meet the beverage makers’ needs for recycled glass to make new bottles. Using recycled glass helps companies lower their energy costs and also reduce risk.
To start, coalition members intend to work on identifying and sharing best practices within the U.S. glass recycling supply chain that can increase the availability of quality cullet, as well as fiber glass insulation. For example, working in tandem with the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, the GPI is helping to assist two North Carolina material recovery facilities install sorting equipment at the front-end of the recycling process instead of recovering glass at the end of the process, which is what usually happens. This saves equipment from wear and tear, and contamination of other recyclables that happens throughout the sorting process.
Glass bottle manufacturers–and their customers–are eager for solutions that can drive higher quality and more recycled glass. It is also important to meet consumer desire to recycle glass containers and ensure that recycling efforts result in higher value manufactured products, include containers and fiber glass. The GPI is hopeful that this collaboration will produce the kinds of tools for communities and the recycling industry that can bring innovative thinking, best practices, and new models for glass container recycling.
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.