Australian glass manufacturer Orora has commenced operation of a $25m glass beneficiation facility in South Australia.

The facility will increase the recycled content in its manufactured glass products.

At an official opening ceremony attended by South Australia Deputy Premier, the Hon Susan Close, Orora Chief Executive Officer Brian Lowe described the beneficiation plant as a major milestone in the company’s sustainability journey.

Mr Lowe said: “It will increase the amount of recycled glass used in its manufactured products, allowing us to process up to 150,000 tonnes each year - that’s equivalent to approximately 330 million wine bottles or 750 million beer bottles.

“Not only does this progress Orora’s sustainability agenda, it enhances our ability to support our customers’ sustainability goals, in turn contributing to the circular economy and the sustainability of the Australian glass industry,” he said.

Construction of the plant, located next to Orora’s glass packaging manufacturing facility at Kingsford near Gawler, was supported by $8m in grant funding from state government.

“Consumers are increasingly demanding recycled packaging, and this project makes a contribution to the circular economy and the sustainability of the glass industry in this state,” Ms Close said.

The process of beneficiation involves removing impurities from used, broken glass through crushing, cleaning and sorting to deliver crushed contaminant-free glass (also known as cullet) ready for manufacture in new products.

The plant uses optical technology for this process, sorting post-consumer recycled glass by colour and separating the glass from contaminants to provide a clean stream into the company’s furnaces.

The use of this type of technology for glass beneficiation is a first for South Australia.

Increasing recycled content through the beneficiation plant will deliver a number of environmental benefits, including a reduction in the amount of energy consumed to manufacture glass products, a reduction in virgin materials and diversion of waste away from landfill.

These benefits will advance the company toward achieving a number of its sustainability goals, which include 60% recycled content for glass beverage containers by 2025 and net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

The plant has the capacity to produce a maximum of 150,000 tonnes of furnace-ready, recycled glass each year, with 100% of the recycled glass used by Orora to produce glass packaging for customers across the beverage industry, including wine, beer, carbonated soft drinks, kombucha, water and olive oil.

Recycled glass is primarily sourced by Orora from container deposit schemes in South Australia and Western Australia.

Orora currently uses 80% of the recycled glass from the South Australia container deposit scheme. The beneficiation plant will enable the company to source more used beverage glass through container deposit schemes and other sources in other states in Australia.

The opening of the plant has generated 12 local jobs in the region across technical roles related to operating the plant as well as 100 jobs via contractors and local suppliers during construction.

Orora is also planning to construct Australia’s first oxy-fuel furnace for its G3 furnace upgrade at Gawler.

The oxygen plant is scheduled for completion in 2024, at a gross cost of approximately $40 million, supported by government funding of $12.5m.