Matthew Demmon* was appointed as the new President of British Glass at the start of 2021. George Lewis spoke to him about his appointment and what his objectives are for his two-year term.
Matthew Demmon has spent his whole career in the glass industry. Now entering his fourth decade in the sector he has experienced working on furnaces around the world at companies such as Guardian Glass and Encirc as well as glass recyclers such as Recresco and Viridor, before creating his own glass recycling company in 2013.
Alongside his own career in the industry, Mr Demmon has worked with British Glass since the late 1990s when he represented the domestic sector for newly formed climate change agreements. This type of work led to Mr Demmon being asked to be on the board of directors at British Glass.
Despite being surprised to be asked to be President, it was a great honour and feels it is a good time to be in the role, he stated, with the industry focused on sustainability and using more recycled content, something Mr Demmon has worked on throughout his career.
“I’d like to increase our membership during my term, particularly with the recyclers and be able to represent their views properly and I think there’s a real opportunity to do so”, he explained.
At British Glass’ Annual General Meeting in January 2021, Mr Demmon was unanimously voted as its new President, taking over the role from previous incumbent Steve Severs, Managing Director at Saint-Gobain Glass UK.
Dave Dalton, CEO of British Glass said at the time of his appointment: “Having worked closely with Matthew during his time on the board of directors and with our work on the Scottish Deposit Return Scheme, I’m sure he will guide our organisation and our industry through whatever the next two years may throw at us.”
Mr Demmon feels it is important to have the voice of recyclers at British Glass, with the current commitment to collect 90% of glass for recycling by 2030.
He said: “We can only achieve that goal with the companies that are going to be doing a lot of the work and we need them to be committed and have the support through the system.”
Mr Demmon also opposes the inclusion of glass in a UK deposit return scheme (DRS), which the UK government believes could ‘reduce the amount of littering, boost recycling levels for relevant material, while offering the enhanced possibility to collect high quality materials in greater quantities and promote recycling through clear labelling and consumer messaging’.
But British Glass has been vocal in its opposition to this scheme and recently raised concerns during a parliamentary committee in March 2021 that glass packaging should not be included in the proposed DRS.
It believes the suggested DRS would limit the country’s ’s ability to recycle glass back into bottles and jars and potentially lead to an increase in plastic packaging.
Mr Demmon explained that British Glass has seen Wales create a successful system which has created an 87% glass collection rate, and believes using a properly funded ‘sensible’ kerbside collection scheme would see the most positive results.
He said that the UK recycling rate is at approximately 75% and is made up of three elements – domestic DRS -type beverage glass and food containers (non-DRS) and hospitality glass. He believes that recycled glass from hospitality businesses is at approximately 60%, whereas a quarter of all glass is food containers, which are always under-represented in waste glass collections. These should be our targets.
Mr Demmon explained that the “DRS-able” glass going through households is already around 90% recycled already. “The material the DRS is going to target is already being put in the bin – that type of glass is really not the problem. It is a fantasy to believe that 90% of all bottles will end up back in the system using DRS”, he said.
He also believes that reaching a 90% collection rate could mean the UK generating approximately 500,000 more tonnes of glass remelt, of which half of that would be green glass, which is already has a high export rate to Iberia and mainland Europe for reuse.
This could pose a challenge for the industry having even more green glass, but it is something Mr Demmon and British Glass are working on to address by 2030.
Mr Demmon also feels that using a very high density of bottle banks is a viable option for glass recycling and explained that schemes such as Zero Waste Leeds proves there is a lot more glass out there than they were collecting with a dispersed bottle bank system but kerbside pickups of a separate stream of glass will be the most effective the way to collect glass.
President’s projects of interest
As President Mr Demmon can see first-hand some of the big industry projects taking place and none excites him more than Glass Futures, the project looking to establish a state-of-the-art glass furnace R&D facility in St Helens, UK to revolutionise the glass industry.
He said: “Glass Futures is a great success for British Glass as it was borne out of our work. We are a guarantor to Glass Futures, and we complement each other and support the sector in the objectives of decarbonisation and innovation. Glass Futures is a great asset to the sector.”
Mr Demmon feels that the supply chain is starting to work together much more than it has done for some time, due to possible ‘frictions’ over the years regarding the direction of the industry.
“A strong glass sector is good for everybody”, he said.
Another project of interest to Mr Demmon with his new role is the European Container Glass Federation’s (FEVE) Furnace for the Future project, which aims to allow the industry to switch to renewable electricity and cut CO2 emissions by up to 60% in the furnace or by 50% for the whole factory.
“It’s a really exciting project and there is a lot of work going on behind the scenes between British Glass and FEVE to help support this project”, Mr Demmon said.
Mr Demmon acknowledged the varying fortunes of the container and flat glass sectors during the Covid-19 pandemic.
He felt that container glass had a ‘bit of a dip in the first UK lockdown’ but had generally performed pretty well, while the flat glass sector had some difficult times and it had been sometimes difficult to get people back out to work.
But with the UK looking like it is on a smoother path out of lockdown during 2021, Mr Demmon was happy to see construction projects now going ahead as normal and believed there is a lot optimism within the glazing sector for the future.
In the summer of 2020 during the height of the pandemic in the UK, the British government announced a Green Homes Grant which is given to homeowners or a residential landlord in the form of a voucher to help reduce the cost of installing energy efficient improvements in a home.
Mr Demmon said that British Glass was disappointed with the grant as it felt that it almost ignored double glazing upgrades, which Mr Demmon argued would help with making homes greener.
With rumoured talks about this grant coming to an end, he hoped that something better would come in to replace it as British Glass believes ‘there is enormous potential to improve glazing in older housing stock that could greatly reduce carbon emissions’.
A career in the glass industry
Mr Demmon has spent most of his adult life in and around the glass industry.
While at university studying for a degree in chemical engineering, his first role within the glass industry was in 1988 on a placement in the south of France working on furnace/unit melter making Graham’s Salt glass.
Following graduation, he obtained a job as a graduate trainee at Rockware (now Ardagh Group), and worked his way up to Furnace Engineer, then becoming the Furnace Manager at Rockware’s Irvine plant in Scotland.
He then sought pastures new at Dema Glass in Doncaster, manufacturing lightbulbs and flurescent tubes. He would then later find himself working at Dema’s Chesterfield plant working on furnaces for drinking glass production.
Mr Demmon joined Guardian’s Goole Project Team but delays meant he worked at Guardian Glass’ Dudelange plant in Luxembourg for two years as the Hot End Superintendent before returning to the UK to start up the plant in Yorkshire.
He spent the next five years at Guardian, before being asked to become the second Batch and Furnace Manager at Quinn Glass’ (now Encirc) newly created Elton, Cheshire plant, in which he helped to start its second furnace.
He then ‘jumped the fence’ and subsequently went to recycler Recresco’s Ellsmere Port site and ran that for three years, before a job at Viridor’s Salmon Pastures plant in Sheffield which then evolved into his first commercial position.
In 2013 he set up his own company, MKD32 that trades waste glass mostly in Scotland, which he still runs today alongside his role as President.
He said: “From 1988 to 2001 I was working for companies that had been shrinking but since then I have worked for companies that are growing and I’ve had a great time.
“I have opened four new sites and it’s been tremendous, and it’s a fantastic industry with so much cutting-edge stuff going on that the wider public might not see as much.”
Hopes and aspirations as President
Mr Demmon finishes his role as President at the end of 2022, and he hopes to have achieved a lot by the time he hands the role over.
He is optimistic that by the time he has finished, there will be more British Glass members than when he started, and that several of them would have come from the glass recycling sector.
In an ideal world he hopes that the UK government had moved past the DRS scheme and had a good set of regulations coming in for waste collection schemes to maximise the glass that is collected.
He also said he would be delighted to see Glass Futures up and running, but knows this may well run into 2023 before being fully operational.
One last wish he hopes for is that in 2022, the possible UN International Year of Glass – of which British Glass supports – will come to fruition.
In another role Mr Demmon has as part of the Worshipful Company of Glass Sellers of London, he explained that it will also to do some events as well to help bring together parts of the industry that don’t normally work together, for example the big glass manufacturers down to the glass artists in order to give glass a higher profile to the general public.
Mr Demmon is excited for what the next two years bring, and has already met all the British Glass staff virtually during recent ‘meet the President’ sessions, where he even felt he learned some new things about British Glass and sister company Glass Technology Services which he hopes will make him a better ambassador for them during his time in the role.
He understands it is important to have one single voice pushing for changes, and hopes he, with the backing of British Glass, he can be that voice.