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Why Wales is recycling glass right

Credit: British Glass

Dave Dalton, CEO

Dave Dalton, CEO | British Glass

4 min read Partner content

The rest of the UK should look to the Welsh blueprint as a way to recycle glass right.

When I speak to people about countries that lead the world on recycling, very rarely is the first answer Wales. But it should be.

Wales has the 3rd highest recycling rate in the world, capturing 87.3% of glass bottles and jars through household collections.

In light of the Environment Bill returning to Parliament and the proposed introduction of a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS), which is set to damage glass recycling rates, the rest of the UK should instead look to the Welsh blueprint as a way to recycle glass right.

Understandably, the Welsh Government is proud of its record and ambitious in its waste strategy, setting a target to reach a 70% recycling rate of all waste streams by 2024, alongside a goal to achieve zero waste by 2050.

The results speak for themselves; Wales understands how to recycle glass right and consistently increase capture rates.

The Welsh system provides a blueprint for the rest of the UK to follow, and an opportunity to replicate these world-beating recycling rates.

So why does Wales have such high recycling rates? Simplicity. They have looked at household recycling collections and worked out how to improve them.

Firstly, a focus on consistent, dedicated collections. Wales introduced a standardised list of items for recycling, so consumers know what to recycle and where. At the same time, the majority of councils in Wales choose to operate separated kerbside collections, rather than a co-mingled method which combines several different materials in one collection.

Secondly, investment in recycling infrastructure.  Wales has seen around £1bn of investment since 2000 to help councils build recycling infrastructure which support up to 20 different waste streams.

Thirdly, a strong emphasis on recycling communications at both a national and local level has been key to unlocking high recycling rates. The introduction of the national recycling campaign ‘Recycle for Wales’, alongside a host of other initiatives aimed at awareness, education and enforcement have helped to create a nation of enthusiastic and active recyclers.

The Welsh system provides a blueprint for the rest of the UK to follow, and an opportunity to replicate these world-beating recycling rates.

The Welsh model is effective, sustainable, and simple. It is a model that can easily be adapted to the rest of the UK to ensure affordable collection services using our existing network of household collections and bottle banks; we just need better communications and more consistent collections. Proposals around Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), which is due to be introduced in the UK for all packaging by 2023, will provide additional funding from producers and should be used by the rest of the UK to adopt the Welsh blueprint – a tried and tested way of reaching, and surpassing,  recycling targets.

For glass recycling, investing in household collections is unquestionably the right way forward, and is an approach favoured by 73% of people according to consumer research.

The majority of consumers think that increased investment for existing kerbside collections and funding more bottle banks are more effective ways of increasing glass recycling than by including glass in a proposed DRS –a decision which would split the collection of glass packaging; with jam jars and sauce bottles remaining part of household waste and wine and beer bottles having to be transported back to a shop to reclaim the deposit.

In consumer research conducted by DEFRA in August 2019, 4 in 10 consumers stated that it would be inconvenient to carry drinks containers back to store, which suggests a barrier to use and a mere 60% DRS participation rate, which is below the current glass collection rate of 67%.   

The glass industry is ambitious, aiming to reach a 90% collection rate for glass recycling by 2030, but to achieve this we know that glass has to be recycled right.

This can be done with a common sense approach, funded by producers through EPR, that delivers consistent collections, more on-the-go recycling bins, more bottle banks, and better communications to households on how, and what, to recycle.

Wales has demonstrated the success of this approach; the rest of the UK should follow its lead.

Let’s get glass recycling right. Keep it kerbside.

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Read the most recent article written by Dave Dalton, CEO - How we can deliver a truly circular economy for glass packaging

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