20 March 2020 by James Langley

Glass sector expresses virus impact fears

Representatives of the glass industry have expressed fears that government advice to the public to stay away from pubs and clubs could lead to a reduction in demand for bottlemaking with consequences for the recycling sector.

While the government has yet to introduce a total ban on the hospitality sector – such as has been put in place in Italy – on Monday Prime Minister Boris Johnson advised people to engage in ‘social distancing’ and avoid pubs and restaurants.

A spokesperson for British Glass, the representative body for the UK’s glass industry, told letsrecycle.com: “Of course, the UK glass industry is deeply concerned about the impact of the Covid-19 virus on the market and their longer-term position should this situation endure for months rather than weeks.

Volumes of glass from the hospitality sector is set to reduce sharply (picture: Wetherspoons)

“With all significant sporting events already cancelled, government advising the public to avoid ‘social contact’ and therefore consigning pubs, clubs, restaurants, live music and public venues to virtual ‘lock-down’, there is inevitably going to be a significant and concerning reduction in demand.

“Financially this is a particularly sensitive time for the whole supply-chain, and we are working closely with the sector, BEIS, the Treasury, CBI and other agencies to ensure all support measures being developed and implemented are accessible to our manufacturers and their customers.”

While the glass industry gets recycled cullet from municipal sources, a significant proportion is also sourced from the hospitality sector.

Panic buying

One glass recycling expert told letsrecycle.com that in the short-term there could be a glut of glass, with the empty aisles in supermarkets demonstrating the effects of panic buying. Increased sales of alcohol, in particular, could see a boost in the amount of glass available for collection and recycling, he suggested. This glut was not expected to last for long, though, because of potential supply chain issues.

Glass production in the UK is just one link in a supply chain, from collection to reprocessing to manufacturing, and it is feared by some that if one of these stages were to go offline it could have a significant effect on the industry.

If demand was to drop dramatically, it could have a domino effect through the supply chain

Gass expert

Domino effect

As with all markets the waste management sector is ultimately dependent on the waste glass arising for despatch to a reprocessor and then on to an end user (bottlemaker). If demand was to drop dramatically, it could have a domino effect through the supply chain, letsrecycle.com heard from one concerned glass recycler.

The British Glass spokesperson said: “These are deeply worrying times and completely unchartered territory for manufacturing, both as a whole and in particular for glass production as a continuous operation that runs 24/7 with a limited capacity to ‘press the pause button’.

“We are closely monitoring the emerging situation and communicating with the authorities and the wider supply-chain to ensure we minimise the impact as far as possible and assist our manufacturing economy through this global crisis.”

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