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How we can deliver a truly circular economy for glass packaging

Dave Dalton, CEO

Dave Dalton, CEO | British Glass

4 min read Partner content

New stats show clearly that the British public want to see their glass collected at their doorstep, not through a damaging and complex Deposit Return Scheme.

With the response from UK, Welsh and Northern Irish governments to the joint consultations on how we manage our waste and resources for generations expected shortly, the glass industry continues to make the case that glass packaging must remain part of improved consistent household collections, not in the proposed Deposit Return Scheme (DRS).

Why? It’s simple.

Keeping glass packaging at out doorsteps is better for our environment - research by the consulting team at Reconomy Group company, Valpak has shown including glass in the planned DRS will produce millions of tonnes more carbon and collect less glass than an improved kerbside scheme.

It will perversely increase plastic consumption, rather than reduce it. In countries like Germany and Croatia there has been a significant uptake in larger, plastic containers due to the smaller upfront cost of the deposit where glass is included in the DRS.

It splits glass packaging recycling into two waste streams – to the detriment of both. Glass jars, condiment bottles and other glass packaging would still remain part of future household collections, representing circa 30 per cent of all glass packaging.

And ultimately the British public do not want it – a recent YouGov survey has shown that over 70% of people are already satisfied with the current collection system for glass packaging and nearly half want to recycle their glass packaging through kerbside collections at their doorstep, compared to 19% who would prefer to recycle glass bottles via a deposit return scheme and 27% who would prefer a mix of both.

Interestingly, every single region in Great Britain would prefer to recycle their glass through kerbside recycling, with the strongest support in rural areas including Wales and the South West, where people may have to travel further to claim their deposit back.

This is not about the vast majority of consumers not wanting to recycle their glass bottles and jars – they do. In fact, the current glass collection for recycling rate is 76% and continuing to rise in the UK. It is a question of why, when we have a system that people engage with already, and it is convenient, would we consider charging consumers a 20p deposit for a glass bottle and mandating that they only get it back when they return a bottle to a store instead of easily just recycling it at their doorstep.

We already have a convenient solution to improving glass recycling, and it’s at our doorsteps

I want to be clear that the industry does not oppose Deposit Return Schemes for other packaging types but, simply, it is wrong solution for glass. Glass as a packaging material is bulkier to transport, and is less likely to be consumed on the go.

British Glass understands the crucial role of consumers in realising our industry ambition of reaching a 90% glass collection rate by 2030. Do we really believe someone is more likely to get on a bus with bags of glass bottles to return them to a store than put them in a bin alongside their jam jars and condiment bottles at their doorstep?

More concerning is that according to YouGov, 66% of adults have either never heard of DRS, or do not know much about the scheme, putting at risk years of work to increase recycling rates.

We already have a convenient solution to improving glass recycling, and it’s at our doorsteps. The British public are already great at recycling their glass at home, so instead of including glass packaging in a damaging and complex DRS, we want to see more glass recycled through enhanced household collections under extended producer responsibility and consistent collections – achieving a 90% recycling rate. Only this will create a truly circular economy for glass packaging.

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