ACI Glass Packaging manufactures many of the glass bottles and jars containing food and beverages that we, as consumers, purchase. ACI has been recycling this glass for more than 100 years. During the past ten years, ACI has worked closely with local governments to establish and promote kerbside recycling, as well as recycling in apartment blocks, public places and at special events. This year ACI Glass Packaging will recycle around 400,000 tonnes of glass nationally.
This glass represents 1.8 billion glass bottles and jars.
Glass is 100% recyclable, so no glass container need ever become litter or go to landfill, provided that a reliable and well publicised collection system is in place. ACI Glass is aware that smart businesses are taking notice of customers’ needs, government expectations and the community’s belief in sustainable development. Many people have adopted recycling as a way of life and are now prepared, or rather, expect to recycle, at work and when socialising. They see they're actively doing something for the environment - because recycling is easy and because they can see results.
Cleaner production initiatives
In 1993, ACI Glass established a Restaurant Recycling Program, targeting Sydney's 3000 restaurants. In 1994, ACI added the Clubs and Pubs Glass Recycling Program, aimed at all clubs and hotels in Sydney and extended to include all clubs, hotels and restaurants in regional NSW.
ACI Glass worked with the local councils and the recycling collectors to ensure the success of these programs. These partnerships were crucial as each party had specific resources to provide to the operation of the campaign. The concept behind both Programs was to assist these commercial premises to:
- recycle all glass bottles and jars;
- promote their environmental initiative to the general public; and
- highlight to them the advantages of recycling i.e. environmental benefits, and also the savings they can make in waste disposal costs.
ACI says that the response from the clubs, hotels and restaurants was ‘fantastic’. The introduction of 'boutique beers' - specifically Hahn Ice and Carlton Cold - had reduced sales of beer 'on-tap' and increased their volume of containers. They were enthusiastic about ACI’s recycling proposal. ACI discussed with them their particular service needs (storage, time of collection, frequency of collection, accessibility) and married them with an appropriate collector. ACI supplied 60 litre recycling crates for placement near bars and kitchens, and also stickers and coasters to promote their environmental commitment.
The two Programs recover about 40,000 tonnes of glass per annum from the waste stream.
Advantages of the process
The advantages of recycling glass include:
- Raw material conservation: for every tonne of cullet used, 1.1 tonnes of raw materials are conserved;
- Energy savings: the energy savings associated with cullet use vary depending upon the efficiency of the furnace,
- the amount of glass being produced and the proportion of cullet in the batch. Glass made with 100% cullet may use 20-35% less energy than glass made wholly from raw materials.
- Emission reduction;
- Landfill reduction.
The benefits to the pubs, clubs and restaurants are significant. One club found they were saving over $200 per month by recovering resources from their waste bin and recycling them.
Cleaner production incentives
The long term success of recycling depends on whether or not recycling makes economic sense.
The equation is roughly that:
Collecting recyclables = collecting garbage + sorting + selling - landfill
Councils must introduce a framework for sharing the costs and responsibilities of recycling. The incentives of recycling depends on four main factors:
Storage areas must exist and must be large enough to keep recyclables separate to avoid cross contamination. They need to provide space for high-peak volumes and be easily accessible.
Recyclers operate in a constantly changing environment where staff turnover, new technology and an evolving mix of materials constantly challenge methods and machinery. Successful recycling doesn't happen by accident - it requires extensive knowledge and planning. Therefore it is important to educate and inform on a regular basis.
Recycling is subject to economic rules like any other business. In fact, recycling is not just a matter of recovering recyclable material, it's a total economic system.
For waste minimisation programs to be effective, the diverted resources must find a secure market. ACI Glass Packaging is committed to receiving all glass bottles and jars and while there is a sound market for recycled glass or cullet, this glass must meet our specifications of both quality and price.
Local governments have a formidable challenge in encouraging stable and cost-effective recycling programs. They must accurately:
- cost their collections;
- appraise contractors;
- assess savings;
- appraise markets and prices paid for collected materials;
- make an informed decision about which materials will be collected and which system will be used.
There are also minimum technical requirements for successful glass recycling that must be met:
- cullet must be contaminant free;
- cullet must be separated for colour;
- cullet must be container glass;
- cullet must meet market specifications.
Contaminants to glass recycling include:
- heat resistant ovenware
- window glass
- light bulbs.
These materials form internal stress fractures within finished glass bottles and jars which in turn affects ACI's ability to meet its customers’ specifications.
The scope of public education campaigns that specifically address contamination has yet to be fully explored, though significant inroads are being made. The difficulty in presenting the case for glass recycling is that there is little drama involved. Recycling glass simply involves removing 'Only glass bottles and jars!' from the waste stream and sorting them into three colours - brown, green and clear.
The main dilemma, as with recycling any material, is the provision of sufficient storage and also reliable collections. Effective communication and the development of partnerships between all key players can overcome this. ACI’s success, to date, is due to constructive partnerships formed between ACI Glass and local governments. The increased professionalism of collectors of recyclables, the positive community response to effective promotion, and reliable, convenient collection schemes have also contributed to the success.