More investment in glass sorting infrastructure will be needed if proposals to split packaging recycling targets for glass are introduced, according to reprocessors.
And, they have suggested that the overall packaging recycling target for glass should be raised to help attract this extra investment.
Last month Defra launched a consultation (see letsrecycle.com story) which set proposed packaging recycling targets for various materials, including glass, between 2013 and 2017.
The government proposed a split target for recycling glass packaging, which if approved, means that whilst the overall recycling target will remain at 60%, cullet sent for aggregate will only be able to account for up to 650,000 tonnes of the obligation, with the rest having to be met by glass sent for re-melt.
However concerns have been raised by the industry as to how the split target will work on the ground due to the limited number of facilities in the UK capable of sorting glass that has been processed at a materials recycling facility (MRF) according to colour. This means that at present much material is used to produce aggregates.
Speaking to letsrecycle.com one glass recycler said: We are trying to get the material into the beneficial market re-melt – but were competing with an aggregates company that doesnt have the quality issues that we have so its easier to put the materials into aggregates where its less beneficial.
Only a couple of UK companies have the ability to sort MRF glass. Its going to need an investment in the infrastructure to expand the technology within the market to do this.
And, the recycler said, the yield from MRF glass is substantially lower with, on average, 80% of the material being high enough quality for re-melt, whereas around 95% of glass from separated collections could be used by the re-melt industry.
Trade body British Glass has been pushing for the split target for glass for some time and has previously praised the governments plan to implement them (see letsrecycle.com story). However, it claims that more communication throughout the supply chain would be needed for it to work effectively.
It also believes that the overall recycling target for glass packaging need to be introduced alongside the split target for it to be most beneficial.
Rebecca Cocking, head of container affairs at British Glass said: Its a move in the right direction but I dont think it has gone far enough. Other materials have been given higher recycling targets but for glass it seems like a trade-off; we either have an increase in targets or a limit on materials going to aggregates.
If you increase the target and introduce the split target for re-melt and aggregates we believe more people would be willing to make the change.
Compliance scheme Toddpak, part of FD Todd & Sons waste management services, is also supportive of this solution. Matthew Pearson, technical director of Toddpak, said: Realistically the market is mature so why didnt they put the targets up to encourage the development and use of technology for separation meaning more glass will be able to go to re-melt or other forms of recycling?
On the ground
Another concern highlighted by the industry is how the split target will work. Defra proposes that it would be achieved by setting statutory targets, implemented through the PRN system. The split glass target would be achieved by splitting the PRN market for re-melt and aggregates. Evidence for aggregates would be separate from evidence for re-melt.
However the Department acknowledges that this may not be the best method for achieving the target, and says feedback from stakeholders is welcome.
Ms Cocking expressed concern about the potential difficulties of implementing the system as PRNs are issued after material is recycled and if the amount sent to aggregate exceeded the proposed limit, the material would not be counted in the PRN system.
One possible solution suggested by Ms Cocking was for the re-melt PRNs to have a higher value than those issued for material destined for aggregates, helping to make the re-melt market more desirable.
She said: If we could get a higher price for the PRN if the material went to re-melt compared to the material that goes to aggregates, then the target may work.