Catering for a closed loop system

A glass recycling partnership between one of London's poshest hotels and one of the capital's poorest boroughs is saving carbon emissions by putting sustainability before profit

When it was first opened to the public in 1889, the Savoy hotel in London’s theatre district had all the mod cons including full electric lighting – totally unheard of in those days. And so while steeped in star-studded history and tradition, the Savoy has never liked to stand in the way of change, except climate change that is.

Owned by global group Fairmont Hotel, the Savoy participates in Fairmont’s green partnership programme which encourages its hotels to follow and develop environmental programmes. “The hotel works hard to re-use and recycle everything possible out of landfill on a daily basis,” says Debra Patterson from the Savoy.

Motivated by this policy, the Savoy asked recycling firm Berryman Glass to put them in touch with a reliable local glass collector. Berryman directed them to the London Borough of Hackney and its commercial waste collection service which collects from some areas outside of its own borough to keep the scheme operating at a maximum kilter.

Glass is stored at the Savoy in mixed colours in 1100-litre wheelie bins and is collected on a near daily basis by Hackney Council. The LA delivers the glass to Berryman’s depot in Dagenham, Essex, and mixed glass is sent to Yorkshire where it is colour-sorted. Once the glass has been processed, it is sent to Rockware Glass facilities to be turned back into jars and bottles.

Brian Head, Berryman’s recycling manager for the south east, says Hackney has taken on the service as part of its commitment to residents to care for the environment and promote sustainability. While the council is not prepared to release information surrounding the costs and charges involved in the scheme, Head suggests the LA would probably achieve higher values per tonne by sending its glass to be used as road fill, rather sending it for re-melting to be turned back into bottles and jars. “Hackney has taken a moral stand,” he says. “That’s what a council should be doing for its residents.”

Carbon savings

Glass that is re-melted to be turned back into jars and bottles costs more to process, so tonnage prices are lower. But Head says figures indicate that this process saves between 290kg to 315kg of CO2 per tonne, whereas glass designated for road fill has to be ground down further which creates more CO2.

This problem was highlighted in a report published by consultancy Grant Thornton last year, The impact of the carbon agenda on the waste management business. It states: “Although agencies involved in promoting glass recycling markets have raised recycling volumes, current materials recovery targets will result in significant lost CO2 benefits of around 100,000 tonnes per than if the glass was sent to landfill.”

Bob Lestrange, from Hackney Council’s commercial waste services – who co-ordinated the scheme with Head – says: “I am very aware of the benefits of a closed loop system. And the process of collecting large volumes of empty glass bottles and jars which are reprocessed into new bottles and jars is in my view the right way to go.

As we all seem to win there is a very positive attitude all round that has contributed to the success of this scheme.”

Collections from the Savoy have been straightforward to set up and contamination hasn’t been an issue, according to Head who adds that the council is keen to get more businesses using the scheme.

Over the course of the first year, Head estimates that the service will collect around 375 tonnes of glass producing a carbon saving of 118 tonnes so the Savoy can feel a bit better at treating its guests to mod cons like full electric lighting.

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