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Recycling UK glass

UK glass recycling lagging behind other major EU countries
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Woman recycles beer bottle in green container for glass

The UK is lagging behind other major European countries in the recycling of glass bottles, according to a new report from Zero Waste Europe in conjunction with Eunomia Research & Consulting.

Britain’s closed-loop recycling rates for glass stand at just 43%, compared with rates of 61% in France and 77% in Germany.

The report comes after government proposals to exclude glass bottles from England and Northern Ireland’s deposit return scheme (DRS) sparked outrage among environmental campaigners.

Glass recycling

Currently, the recycled content in single-use container glass is only 38% in the UK.

Some 55% of glass in the UK is collected via comingled collection, which results in less cullet returning into glass manufacturing than in countries that mainly use a separate collection system.

Defra has proposed a 2030 recycling rate target of 83% and a remelt target of 80%, increasing collection rates.

How Circular is Glass?

Key barriers presented in the new study, ‘How Circular is Glass? A report on the circularity of single-use glass packaging’, include ineffective collection methods, design and logistical shortcomings, leading to material and energy losses.

‘Including effective closed-loop recycling via deposit return schemes which include single-use glass will not only improve the circularity of single-use glass, but also by scaling up more refillable glass packaging systems across Europe and by increasing the market shares of refillable glass packaging via strong reuse targets will help to tackle the current energy crisis.

‘We cannot ignore the truth about the single use of glass any more: its massive energy consumption during primary production puts single-use glass at the top of materials with the greatest environmental impacts. Yet, these are not justified, since this material is perfectly suited for reuse and recycling.’
Consumption and production campaigner at Zero Waste Europe

The report is based on four case studies (France, Germany, United Kingdom and the United States) and uses 2019 data to calculate collection rate, overall recycling rate, closed-loop recycling rate and recycled content as its four key performance indicators.

The biggest losses of glass material occur at the collection stage – a huge resource and environmental loss, the report says.

It adds that deposit return systems with single-use glass in their scope can improve the overall glass collection rates for this material.

Existing deposit return system currently achieve up to 98% collection rates for glass beverage bottles.

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