The value of mixed glass from materials recycling facilities (MRFs) has fallen in the last few months, recyclers say.
Glass from commingled collections is often heavily contaminated with a variety of other materials. Historically it could well have been rejected by reprocessors.
According to letsrecycle.com’s research, the gate fee charged by reprocessors for MRF glass rose from between nothing and £23 a tonne in December 2020 to between £2 and £29 in March 2021.
Recyclers cited various reasons for the higher gate fee, including a lack of UK reprocessing capacity, an increase in the quantity of MRF glass due to the national lockdown, and a reduced packaging recovery note (PRN) demand.
Matthew Demmon, president of trade body British Glass and managing director of glass merchant and consultancy MKD32, believes the fall in value has more to do with the 5% increase in the glass remelt recycling target, meaning the glass other PRN is worth less.
Mr Demmon, who is also a member of Defra’s Advisory Committee on Packaging, told letsrecycle.com: “I do think they’re moving in the right direction, but this is more to do with PRNs rather than processing capacity.
“The change in remelt targets means any glass that can only be used for aggregate has less value than last year, and MRF glass contains a higher proportion of small and contaminated glass than kerbside collections.
“There is now an incentive to improve the quality of glass collected and to recycle it for remelt. That was the purpose of the split remelt target, and it is finally having an effect.”
The overall target for glass packaging waste recycling rose from 80% in 2020 to 81% in 2021 (see letsrecycle.com story).
Glass PRNs can be purchased either as remelt 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.
While the 1% increase in the overall target is only small, the proportion which must be remelt rose by 5% from 67% in 2020 to 72% in 2021.
One reprocessor told letsrecycle.com this meant that demand for glass other PRNs had dropped dramatically. Another described the fall in the value of MRF glass as a “correction”.
Other recyclers say a variety factors are at play. One recycler who collected glass told letsrecycle.com there was a lack of MRF glass reprocessing capacity in the UK, as it is only accepted by a handful of operators.
“There is now an incentive to improve the quality of glass collected and to recycle it for remelt”
There is also said to be greater volumes of glass in household recycling because of the closure of the hospitality sector, leading to more people are drinking at home. This means there is more MRF glass on the market. This has also led to a reduction in volumes of separately collected mixed glass, and a corresponding increase in value.
The busiest time of year for glass recycling is usually Christmas. Today, recyclers say the volume of glass in household collections is comparable to that seen at a typical Christmas. The market has been awash with MRF glass since the Covid-19 pandemic began, recyclers say.
One said that for there to be too much MRF glass to cope with one reprocessor just needed to accept 10% more. All reprocessors are said to have done so at the same time.
It is believed volumes will not return to normal until the hospitality sector reopens fully. Reprocessors need to be short of material before the value of MRF glass increases, a recycler said. They added the end users had full control over the markets and so could dictate their prices.