As industry confederation British Glass makes clear, percentages of remelt need to improve, with brands and retailers keen to see glass competing with declarations of recycled content in other materials such as plastics.
Head of container affairs Rebecca Cocking explained: "There are six manufacturers of container glass now in the UK with 12 production facilities, lacking the critical mass to change the entire UK collection infrastructure on their own."
She added: "Brands have been asking what they can do to help. If we can get all those who are interested working towards the same goal, this would give us the ability to go to local authorities with offers to help improve their infrastructure." This would be on top of improved bring facilities provided directly by retailers, for instance.
According to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs' recent consultation document, there is under 2.8Mt of container glass in the UK waste stream. Of that, the government is aiming for a national recycling and recovery rate of 62.4%. This translates as a rate for obligated businesses, over a given size and volume threshold, of 81% up to 2017.
But the issue of 'recovery' is an especially sharp-edged one for glass, where large amounts of cullet have typically been used as aggregate, often for road building. The sustainability of this practice has come under increasing scrutiny, especially since it diverts cullet from container-to-container recycling.
Separate remelt target
So glass is unique among the major packaging materials categories in having a separate remelt target for obligated firms of 64% by 2017. This means increasing British Glass's current estimate of 600,000t a year of remelt to just under 1.1Mt over this period.
Tim Neal, environmental, regulatory, policy and audit manager at manufacturer O-I Europe, worries that the new targets do not put enough pressure on local authorities to change their ways. "The preference for remelt needs more teeth, and we'd like to see a more challenging increase in the target for glass recycling towards remelt uses," he said.
Among the stronger examples of co-operation between the supply chain and local government, said Neal, was the partnership between Marks & Spencer and Somerset Waste Partnership. "But it is perhaps doubtful whether such schemes could ever be expanded nationwide," he said.
The issue of 'packaging recovery notes' (PRNs) provided one clear, practical step that brand owners and retailers could take, according to O-I. "They should insist they meet their glass producer responsibility obligation by obtaining PRNs from remelt reprocessors and not aggregate reprocessors," said Neal. "If they purchase glass PRNs from aggregates which is perfectly legal they are in effect subsidising the very group preventing the glass industry from responding to the brandowners' calls to increase levels of recycled glass in their packaging."