Ground-breaking machinery can produce the same yield from combined collections as separated, making the 90% recycling target easily achievable, states Tim Gent, Director,
The UK boasts an impressive glass recycling rate of 68.8% and the glass industry is fully committed to pushing this further by increasing the target to 90% by 2030.
Recycling is positive; it’s good for the environment and encourages sustainability but as rates increase so too does demand for good quality cullet for the manufacture of new glass bottles, jars and fibre glass.
When glass is recycled into new glass products, it saves around 246kg of carbon dioxide emissions for every tonne re-melted while reducing energy consumption and the need for virgin raw materials. 
The glass industry agrees that driving glass into remelt is essential and this is a priority in the glass industry decarbonisation action plan.
When it comes to packaging, glass is the ultimate material; it is incredibly sustainable being 100% recyclable and capable of being re-melted endlessly without any loss of quality.
MRF for remelt
When it comes to the issue of quality, MRF glass is often disregarded by reprocessors for being unsuitable and too contaminated for remelt but as new technology and sorting systems emerge, this no longer needs to be the case.
Glass from comingled collections is mixed with a variety of other materials, compacted, crushed, broken and delivered to the MRF.
The process causes heavy contamination with paper, cardboard, metal, heat resistant glass, plastics, toys, ceramics, porcelain just some of the items regularly identified.
At the MRF everything that drops through the trommel (typically 40-50ml mesh) is considered ‘glass’ although it is often difficult for the naked eye to see any glass in the material at all.
Historically this glass would have been rejected by reprocessors ultimately leading it to landfill or aggregate.
However, today not only is it possible to use this material for remelt; it is possible to reprocess it to a standard comparable to that expected from clean, separated collections.
Technology has made the impossible possible
Innovative sorting and cleaning technology makes what was once an impossible task, possible.
Ground-breaking machinery can produce the same yield from combined collections as separated, making the 90% recycling target more easily achievable.
The ability to reprocess MRF glass to this standard is beneficial for both the industry and the environment.
It drives more glass into remelt over aggregate, resulting in less waste, fewer carbon emissions and reduced energy consumption. It also solves any issues of material availability for the industry.
Re-melt must be prioritised
The glass industry agrees that re-melt must be prioritised and welcomed the increase in re-melt over aggregate targets for 2021-22 to 72%.
By investing in the technology and systems that make it possible for MRF glass to be included in the remelt market, the industry can help meet and even exceed this target.
The evolution of sorting technology makes it possible for glass recycling to enjoy both quality and quantity of material while meeting increased targets and exacting industry standards.
Only by considering co-mingled material and investing in the technology to reprocess it effectively in a closed loop system, can glass be considered truly circular.
In terms of recyclability, glass has the ability to deliver a truly circular economy, turning waste glass into new bottles minimising the use of virgin raw materials and benefiting the environment.
Recycling glass is one of the many ways we can help reduce pollution and waste.
The economic and environmental benefits are obvious but it is imperative that businesses and Government make a firm commitment by educating consumers and investing in the processes and technology that make this possible.