UK glass recycling rates lower than much of Europe
New European recycling data reveals that 11 countries are now recycling over 75% of their glass, while the UK rate was just over 60% with much of this diverted away from the glass container industry for other uses.
In 2009 1.6 million tonnes of glass was collected in the UK. Of this 38% was recycled back into glass containers, 22% was exported for new containers and 40% was used for alternative purposes (mainly aggregates).
According to leading glass manufacturer Owens Illinois, the UK's lower recycling rate is due to a rise in mixed collections where different colours of glass are not separated out. This reduces the quality and amount of UK glass material that the packaging industry is actually able to buy.
So the UK needs to try harder if its to achieve the European Commission's ambitions to become a circular economy where recycling is the key factor to waste reduction and where waste is considered as a valuable resource. New EU directives have been passed requiring that governments increase their recycling rates to help reduce demand for primary raw materials, re-use valuable materials and reduce energy consumption. And glass is one of few materials to offer true cradle-to-cradle recycling in contrast to other materials which are effectively down-cycled rather than recycled.