Nick Kirk was speaking at a session on glass at the Letsrecycle Live trade show at Stoneleigh Park, chaired by Ecosurety’s procurement manager, Sandeep Atwall. British Glass is the representative body for the UK glass sector.
Dr Kirk said more than 2.7 million tonnes of glass was placed on the market in 2019. Of this, 80% was beverage containers, destined in future to go to the DRS, and the other 20% was for food and ‘other’. This will be captured under other policies contained within extended producer responsibility (EPR).
The technical director said British Glass supported the proposals and targets for the separate collection of glass under the Resources and Waste Strategy reforms. “As an industry we support EPR, with its increasing recycling targets and remelt targets,” he said.
However, he suggested including glass in the DRS could prove “unnecessary” if households were already to receive kerbside collections. “There’s got to be a better way forward than having two separate collections for glass.”
He also said that, because glass was a heavy material, households could be dissuaded from delivering their empty bottles to the reverse vending machines.
Instead, he called for consistent household collections, the swift implementation of EPR, and better education and communication.
Dr Kirk also referenced the split in the glass PRN, which was introduced in 2012. Glass PRNs can be purchased either as remelt (used in bottle making) or as ‘other’, which covers glass that goes towards aggregate. Remelt is seen as the more circular solution but requires more expensive processing, hence the split.
The split is having a really good impact on glass remelted in the UK and going for export
– Dr Nick Kirk, technical director at British Glass
In 2021, the proportion of PRNs which must be remelt rose by 5% from 67% in 2020 to 72% in 2021. Dr Kirk said the split had been effective at driving more glass towards remelt since its inception. He questioned whether the UK could maintain its drive for a greater proportion of remelt if the DRS included glass.
“The split is having a really good impact on glass remelted in the UK and going for export,” he said. “The concern for DRS is that we will only have collection targets.”
Tim Gent, director of glass recycling company Recresco, also spoke about PRNs at the session. He expressed concerns that there could be a 19,000-tonne shortfall after an “unexpected increase” in the obligations for glass remelt in 2021.
Mr Gent claimed Recresco sells about 20% of all glass PRNs. He said that, if there was to be a shortfall by the end of the year, then it would be reflected in his prices. “At the end of the year, I’m going to try and make as much money as I can,” he said.
Mr Gent echoed Dr Kirk’s concerns about including glass in the DRS. “Instead of a lorry picking up everybody’s glass, people are going to get in their cars and drive to their machines. How is that environmentally friendly? DRS is something I’m strongly against.”