UK glass recycling rate remains below EU average

The UKs glass recycling rate remained below the European average in 2010, according to the latest figures published by the European Container Glass Federation, FEVE.

The organisation has published figures for all 27 EU member states showing that on average, 68% of glass recycled in 2010, relatively consistent with the 67.42% average achieved in 2009 (see story).

On average the European Union member states recycled 68% of glass in 2010
On average the European Union member states recycled 68% of glass in 2010

But, the UK is still struggling to catch up with 60.7% recycled during the year. This figure is actually lower than the 62% of glass that was recycled in the UK in 2009.

Belgium remains top in the EU with a glass recycling rate of 95.95%, followed by the Netherlands with 91.27 and Sweden with 91.14%. At the other end of the scale Cyprus has the lowest glass recycling rate for 2010 at just 19.91%.

FEVE estimates that approximately 25 billion glass bottles and jars were collected throughout the EU during 2010. Of these 80% of glass bottles and jars collected are sent for remelt, which in 2010 saved more than 12 million tonnes of raw materials including soda ash, sand and limestone.

However, in the UK the proportion of glass sent for remelt was greater. In 2010 the UK collected 1,646,708 tonnes of glass, of which approximately 600,000 tonnes was sent for remelt, while 400,000 was use in aggregates and the rest was either exported or used in the production of fibre glass.

Commenting on the importance of sending glass to remelt, Niall Wall, president of FEVE, said: Glass collection and recycling is the perfect component of a circular economy. As there is still 32% of glass that is not yet collected our goal is to get this precious resource back in the bottle-to-bottle loop. With the help of national and EU authorities, collectors and processors we want to increase the quantities of good quality glass collected so that we can recycle more in our plants.

British Glass

Rebecca Cocking, head of container affairs at British Glass, the UKs glass industry body, said the UKs performance is due to the fact that packaging recycling targets for glass have remained flat over the last two years.

It has gone down but thats down to the fact that they havent increased the targets over the years, she said. We have always exceeded the 60% target. One thing that we asked for was to see a higher target going forward because we were aware we affected by the lack of increase.


Last week Chancellor George Osborne confirmed new packaging recycling targets for businesses for 2013-17 (see story) including a new split target for glass. This will see see the overall recycling target for glass remain at its current level of 60%, but 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 remelt.

Ms Cocking said: We welcome the new targets but would still urge the Government that while local authorities are not subject to this Legislation, there is a danger that too much cullet will continue to end up in our roads instead of back on the shelf.

She urged councils to look at glass collections from a long term sustainable point of view as the way glass is collected can impact its end use.

Table showing European glass recycling rates

EU glass recycling table
EU glass recycling table

Source: FEVE

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