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Why recycle glass?

As the world’s leading glass manufacturer, making glass is what we do. But reusing existing glass is just as important to us. O-I is committed to sustainability. And reducing waste by increasing the amount of recycled glass we use is just one of the ways we’re focusing on continuous sustainable development.

To encourage more glass recycling, O-I champions advocacy, education and partnerships with regulatory officials, legislators, suppliers, customers and community groups. As part of that journey, we’re sharing our learnings: the benefits of recycling glass, how we’ve increased the recycled content within our products, the glass recycling life cycle and glass disposal in Australasia.

Glass is a truly recyclable material. Not only is it made from sand, lime and soda ash – non-reactive natural materials that are safe to reuse – glass can also be made on a closed-loop cycle. That means the material from a final glass product can be turned into the exact same product without losing its quality or purity. Put simply, when glass is recycled it can be turned into more glass. It is 100% infinitely recyclable.

What’s more, by reusing glass the need for raw materials is reduced. 1kg of recycled glass (or cullet) replaces 1.2kg of virgin raw materials, conserving natural resources and reducing environmental impact.

Growing concerns for the environment are seeing both consumers and businesses more motivated to be environmentally conscious when it comes to what they purchase and, for businesses, what they manufacture.

Although this is a collective concern across all generations, it’s much more pronounced amongst millennial consumers. 32%* are willing to pay more for products in sustainable packaging. 62%** of millennials even stated that they were willing to reject brands, products and services based on concerns around their environmental impact.      

With their increased spending power, millennials are a socially-conscious group of consumers that shouldn’t be ignored.

The brands that do pay attention by establishing an environmentally-conscious reputation today have an opportunity to grow market share while building loyalty among the power-spending millennials of tomorrow.

The process of glass recycling begins with cullet. Cullet is recycled, broken or waste glass made from post-consumer and post-production glass, fine grinds and flat glass, like windows.

With our strong manufacturing presence in Australia and given the immense value added – to businesses, communities and the environment – when high volumes of cullet are incorporated into the glass making production process, O-I realised the opportunity to better fulfil cullet needs in Australia.

So, in 2014, we partnered with Australian Packaging Covenant to develop a cullet-producing plant in Brisbane. The Queensland site now fully owned by O-I serves the region’s needs for recycled glass, processing over 100,000 tonnes of recycled glass – that would usually be sent to landfill – every single year.

Our Brisbane Cullet plant is now Queensland’s largest investment of its type. Better yet, it’s responsible for over 20 new jobs in the area.

Once processed, cullet is then added into the glass making production process. The recycled glass is combined with all-natural materials and then transferred to the furnace for melting.

The liquid molten glass mixture is then cooled and cut into ‘gobs’ of molten glass before being diverted into moulds within our forming machine.

After they have passed a rigorous inspection process, the newly formed glass containers are packaged and shipped to our customers.

Astonishingly, although the process is complex, a glass bottle can go from your recycling bin to a store’s shelf in as little as 30 days.

Since 1973, when O-I New Zealand introduced the country’s very first glass recycling programme, O-I has diverted nearly 1.9 million tonnes of glass from landfill in New Zealand, avoiding more than 64,946 tonnes of emissions.

In Australia we divert approximately 250,000 tonnes of glass from landfill. We continue to demonstrate sector leadership and work to reduce our carbon footprint through improved manufacturing processes, cutting carbon emissions, reducing our energy usage and increasing the amount of recycled glass in our operations.

Glass is one of the easiest materials to recycle and is accepted by almost all recycling centres. 97% of New Zealanders have access to recycling services. In most residential kerbside collection programmes, glass is collected separately and carefully. This allows O-I glass to use very high volumes of recycled glass in its containers in New Zealand –  67% to be exact.

In Australia, many kerbside recycling collection systems offer a fully commingled bin. This means that all recyclables are collected together in the bin, resulting in lower glass quality. More recently, some Australian states have introduced container take back schemes which result in much higher quality glass collection, allowing O-I Glass to use much greater volumes moving forward. The recycled content for manufactured glass containers at O-I Australia is up to 51%.

A few things can be done at home to ensure high percentages of cullet can be used in the glass containers we make. Food and beverage bottles or jars are the only glass items O-I can reuse. These containers should then be colour sorted into amber, green and flint. This helps further down the lines as it allows us to better colour match our customers’ colour standards when the cullet becomes a brand-new glass container.

*Source: G&S Business Communications/FPA: 2018 Brand Owner and Consumer Insights on the Sustainability of Flexible Packaging – A New FPA Study

 **Source: Nielsen Consumer/Media View: Australians aged 18+, Survey 2, 2017 National Database April 2016-March 2