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The changing face of glass recycling

7th November 2008

Getting the job done: the changing face of glass recycling

At the annual conference of the Waste Management Institute in Blenheim this week, the major players in the glass sector (including representatives from manufacturers of glass packaging, brand owners who use glass containers and supermarkets who sell their products) told officials from local and central government that their voluntary glass levy was effective, flexible and delivering results.

David Carter Chair of the Glass Packaging Forum said that collaboration with councils, industry and recyclers operators was directly linked to increasing recycling to 62% and would continue to be vital in challenging economic times.

“This week proves the old adage “A week is a long time in politics” but four years is a very long time in the packaged goods industry. Four years ago we weren’t thinking about carbon footprints, offsetting greenhouse gas emissions or the social and economic impacts of manufacturers moving their production off shore. We had a single goal – to increase glass recycling and get rid of glass stockpiles.”

“But the goal posts have shifted and they will continue to move. The landscape looks very different today than it did when we started:

 The glass stockpiles today aren’t in South Island but are more likely to be piles of glass resulting from commingled collections which await processing or once processed await shipment offshore. Commingled collection has reduced the glass recycling percentage by around 5% in the past year and with more councils providing commingled collections this will increase further.

 As packaging manufacturers in general are moving overseas to cheaper production markets, glass production in New Zealand is set to increase by 66% with millions of dollars invested by O-I New Zealand in a third furnace.

 Whilst three years ago we didn’t have enough uses for glass, the issue now is not being able to recover sufficient good quality cullet for glass making in New Zealand.

 Continual investment in innovation has opened up local and international markets for glass to be used in aggregate for roads, pathways and constructions; golf courses; mulch for wineries; filtration systems, sand blasting and erosion protection.

Mr Carter said that there is no single response:

“The dynamics have changed – we can focus on recycling or we can look at the bigger picture. And we believe that product stewardship requires us to consider all of the economic, social and environmental factors and then agree trade-offs. Ultimately we’ve come to learn that there is no single pill which will cure the problem. ”

“We can tackle recycling by collecting more through commingled collections and then shipping it off shore. Community recyclers tell us this isn’t what they want to happen with a valuable resource. Further there is a direct relationship between the way in which recovered materials are utilized and New Zealand’s carbon footprint. Glass cullet requires significantly less energy to be melted and as an alternative to using raw material produces much fewer emissions so from an environmental perspective we should be making sure as much glass as possible is available for reuse in glass making.”

New Zealand’s glass recovery rate puts it ahead of Europe which is striving for a 60% recycling target by the end of 2008 and Australia which aims for 60% by 2010.

Mr Carter said that industry and councils agree on the need for product stewardship and recycling:

“We are working closely with many local councils and communities and we all want New Zealand to have the best recycling system possible but this collection process will be paid for via rates, taxes or increased costs at the supermarkets. This needs to be addressed at least cost.”

“We hold up our voluntary levy programme which has committed $0.5 million dollars to fund research, operations and education in the past 12 months as an example of how voluntary programmes deliver results. Voluntary schemes are winners because industry is part of the solution rather than being sent a demand to pay additional taxes and compliance costs.”


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