British Glass has called for a “Courtauld-style agreement” to be adopted for glass recycling – a move backed by leading drinks bottler Coca-Cola Enterprises – in response to a report released last week by the European Container Glass Federation that has come out in favour of separate recycling collections for glass packaging.

The study, undertaken by ACR+, proposed that separate waste collection schemes for glass “should be widely supported if we are to build a circular economy for glass packaging”. It also called for European member states to use resources “much more sparingly” by recycling more and upping material quality levels.

As part of a series of recommendations, the report said a more integrated approach was required, involving all stakeholders along the supply chain – a suggestion welcomed by industry body British Glass.

Speaking to edie, British Glass’ head of container affairs Rebecca Cocking said that while glass bottle bank schemes tend to offer the best quality levels, the fact that the UK is a complex market with a diverse recycling system must not be overlooked.

To address this, she said the UK needs to “fundamentally change its relationship with glass” and view used bottles as part of a sustainable solution, rather than a problem.

“One approach would be to create a Courtauld-style agreement for glass, where all the key players are involved and working collaboratively to move the industry forward,” she said.

Cocking went on to point out that “unilateral initiatives can only ever deliver small-scale results” – what is needed, she said, is a coordinated approach by manufacturers, retailers, brands, cullet suppliers and local authorities “to link activities that play to individual strengths.”

Such activities could involve raising awareness among consumers with better promoted recycling facilities, working with the hospitality sector to improve collection infrastructure and assisting councils in local recycling campaigns.

It’s a view shared by Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) which has been in discussions with British Glass and its suppliers about how best to tackle the issue. From CCE’s perspective, challenges around cullet quality restrict the amount of recycled material it can use in its bottles for distribution within the UK.

Speaking to edie, CCE’s associate director for recycling (GB) Nick Brown said: “As with so much in the waste and recycling chain, quality improvements can only really be made by bringing parties together and working in partnerships.”

He added that the issue was recently highlighted in Defra’s consultation on packaging recycling targets which has just closed, and that he hoped it would provide “a good stimulus for the parties to come together”.

Packaging expert Mark Shayler who heads up his own consultancy Tickety Boo also welcomed British Glass’ proposals for greater collaboration.

“By working together the industry reduces the logistics and individual producer responsibility challenges that would otherwise dominate the debate,” he told edie, adding that closed loop approaches to PET and newer plant-based materials were “essential if we are to avoid down-cycling and contamination issues”.

WRAP, which coordinates the current Courtauld Commitment responsibility deal for the grocery retail sector, were contacted by edie for a response to the proposals, but declined to comment.

Maxine Perella

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie