Concern mixed messages over recycling may threaten glass supply chain

The public is being called on to support glass recycling during and after the COVID-19 lockdown to ensure a supply of glass containers to essential food and beverage manufacturers.

The country’s only container glass stewardship scheme, the Glass Packaging Forum (GPF) says while the Ministry for the Environment has confirmed recycling is an essential service, the decision to collect and process recyclables is at the discretion of councils, contractors and processors.

GPF Scheme Manager Dominic Salmon says the country’s only glass container manufacturer, O-I New Zealand, is operating as an essential service, as they supply bottles and jars to food and beverage manufacturers. “O-I relies on a steady supply of recycled glass for its operations. It’s average recycled glass content for 2019 was 69%.”

The GPF is appealing to people to continue sorting their recyclables from their household waste, and to find out what the recycling situation is in their area.

Dominic says he’s concerned people have been getting conflicting information around recycling during the lockdown. “In some areas recycling is being collected and sent to landfill, in others just the glass is being recycled, and in yet other areas councils are asking that recyclables go into general rubbish,” Dominic says.

“While some disruption to this important supply chain is inevitable, the GPF and its members are working to keep this to a minimum.” He is appealing to residents to help by continuing to recycle where possible or to stockpile their recyclables, if safe to do so, for when collections start again.

“Different councils, recycling contractors, and processors are doing different things for logistic, and health and safety reasons. Please don’t assume the same thing is happening around the country – please check with your local council to see what the recycling situation is.”

Sending glass to landfill is a huge waste of valuable resources as it can be infinitely recycled and is one of the most sustainable packaging materials, he says.

Using recycled glass to make new glass bottles and jars reduces the need for virgin material – in fact, 1kg of recycled glass replaces 1.2kg of virgin materials.  It also means the furnaces can run at a lower temperature so there are less emissions, Dominic says.  According to the latest information from O-I NZ, every 10 percent of recycled glass content reduces emissions by 5 percent and generates energy savings of approximately 3 percent. 

“A great little statistic we’d love people to keep in mind when doing their recycling is that the energy saved by recycling a single bottle could light a 15-watt low-energy light bulb for 24 hours,” Dominic says.