Summary and Conclusions of the Study

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Courtesy of 2.-0 LCA consultants

Background and objectives

According to 'Affald 21', the Danish national waste plan for the period of 1998-2004 (Ministry of Environment and Energy, 1999) recycling of household waste should be increased over the coming years. The plan is focused on increasing sorting and collection from the households, in which glass is one of the fractions.
The first objective of this project is to examine the relevant conditions for an increased collection of bottles and cullet and the market for these recycled products. This is done in order to identify significant conditions to select the right target areas. The examined conditions are:

• Options and barriers for an increased reuse of unbroken wine bottles within Denmark and abroad.
• Options and barriers for and increased recycling of cullet within Denmark.
The second objective of this project is to assess the environmental aspects of the existing system for collection and recycling of unbroken wine bottles in Denmark. This part is conducted by answering the questions:
• What is the environmentally best solution – the existing system where wine bottles are collected, cleaned and refilled in Denmark and where bottles are exported for refilling in other European countries - or alternatively, by remelting all bottles into new glass?
• Focussing on the export, what is the optimal solution for the environment – to export wine bottles for refilling or to remelt the glass ? What is the maximum transport distance if an environmental advantage should be retained?
• Will considerable improvements for the environment be obtained if the existing system is optimised (i.e. if handling of wine bottles during the collection is improved and if the consumers return more wine bottles for refilling and more cullet for remelting?)

The environmental assessment is based on Life Cycle Assessment principles. This is also known as 'from cradle to grave-analyses'. The environmental assessment is conducted by the use of the 'EDIP-method' from the Danish Environmental Protection Agency.

Possibilities and barriers for increased recycling

Almost a third of the glass used for packaging was not collected in 1998. Instead, these amounts of glass went with the household waste ending up in waste incineration plants. It is estimated that this discarded amount of glass contained 12,000,000 unbroken bottles (approx. 6,000 tons) and approximately 52,000 tons of cullet. This amount of cullet is in the same order of magnitude as the amount of cullet which is recycled today at Rexam Glass Holmegaard A/S (in the following mentioned as 'Holmegaard'). Holmegaard is the only manufacturer in Denmark
Additionally, it is estimated that approximately 19,000,000 reusable bottles (or 9,000 tons) were broken during the collection process. The wine bottles are primarily broken during collection when the bottles are thrown into the containers by the consumer in the municipal collection systems.
Hence, there is a considerable potential of recycling glass from private households. Furthermore, a more careful handling of the collected bottles or a improvement of the collection material is expected to give an increase in the amount of recycled wine bottles. In theory, it is possible both to collect more glass in the existing collection systems and at the same time to improve the system in order to prevent bottles from breaking during the collection.
Holmegaard estimates that the glass work can recycle around 15,000 tons of coloured cullet more than they do today. If the cullet is separated into clear glass and coloured glass at delivery, Holmegaard estimates that the glass work is able to recycle another 15,000 tons or more of clear cullet.
It has not been within the scope of this project to evaluate the possibilities of exporting a larger amount of cullet than today.
The recycling bottles trade considers that the maximum limit for selling wine bottles for refilling to the Danish marked is reached. Nothing indicates that the market for recycled wine bottles should increase in the future as is seems unlikely that the import of bulk wine (which is bottled in Denmark) will increase.
The trade considers that it is possible to increase the export of recycled wine bottles to the European marked. However, this marked is sensitive to political initiatives. If for example other countries introduce tax on packaging as we have in Denmark this would likely stop the Danish export of recycled wine bottles. Hence, it is only possible to say that a short term increase in the export of recycled wine bottles is possible.
On the basis on the above it can be concluded that an increase in the collection of wine bottles can be exported to other European countries. An increase in the collected amount of cullet can be recycled at Holmegaard (15,000 tons). It has not been possible to identify recycling possibilities abroad within the scope of this project.

Method for the environmental assessment

The environmental assessment in this report is conducted by the use of the 'EDIP-method' which is the method developed for and used by the Danish Environmental Protection Agency. The following resource consumptions and environmental impacts have been assessed:
Consumption of energy and material resources:
• Natural gas
• Crude oil
• Hard coal
• Lignite (brown coal)
Environmental impacts:
• Global warming
• Stratospheric ozone depletion
• Photochemical ozone formation
• Acidification
• Nutrient enrichment
Waste categories (used as an indicator for the environmental impacts from depositing of waste)
• Hazardous waste
• Nuclear waste
• Slag and ashes
• Bulk waste
This report does not include a full LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) for wine bottles. The environmental assessments conducted in this report are carried out as comparisons. Consequently processes being equal in the compared scenarios have been left out.

Environmental assessment of the existing system compared to remelting

An environmental assessment of the existing system contra remelting all the glass has been carried out by making a comparison of:
• The existing Danish system for collecting wine bottles for refilling and cullet for remelting at glass works. The wine bottles are cleaned and refilled in Denmark and in other countries in Europe.
• A theoretical system where all wine bottles and cullet are remelted into new glass at glass furnace.
The results show that the existing Danish system consumes less energy resources, contributes less to the global warming, acidification and nutrient enrichment and the system produces less bulk waste and hazardous waste than if all the wine bottles are remelted in glass owns.
In the existing Danish system, a considerable part of the bottles is exported as washed or non-washed bottles for refilling in the wine-producing countries (Spain, France, Germany etc.). An environmental assessment has been made focusing on this export. The assessment has shown that the environmental advantages of washing the bottles instead of producing new ones make up for the long transport - that is, it is worth while collecting wine bottles for refilling in the Southern European countries - seen from an environmental point of view.
Apparently, the existing system also contributes less to photochemical ozone formation than remelting of the glass. However, the difference between the systems is in the same level as the uncertainties of the used data. Hence, it can not be concluded whether there is a real difference between the systems.
The consumption of hard coal and lignite and the contribution to nuclear waste are considered insignificant for the overall conclusion as their contributions are very small compared with the other categories when using the weighting of the EDIP-method.
On the other hand, the existing system contributes more to stratospheric ozone depletion than if the bottles are remelted. This is due to a larger consumption of plastic (for packaging and storage of bottles before cleaning) and use of cleaning chemicals. It should be emphasised that the contribution to the stratospheric ozone depletion is very small compared to the contribution to the other environmental impact categories. Hence, this does not change the overall conclusion:
The existing Danish system for collection of wine bottles for cleaning and refilling in Denmark and in other European countries and collection of cullet for remelting at glass works is better seen from an environmentally point of view than remelting all the wine bottles.

Environmental assessment of an optimisation of the existing system

An environmental assessment of the optimisation of the existing Danish system has been carried out by making a comparison of:
• The existing Danish system for collecting wine bottles for refilling and cullet for remelting at glass works. The wine bottles are cleaned and refilled in Denmark and in other countries in Europe.
• An optimised system where the wine bottles is handled more gently during the collection in order to prevent the wine bottles from breaking and where more glass is collected by the municipal collection systems.
The results show that significant amounts of energy can be saved by optimising the existing system. The energy reductions are mainly owing to the increased amount of recycled wine bottles that substitutes the manufacturing of new wine bottles. Furthermore, a significant saving of energy for extraction of raw materials is obtained.
Especially an improved handling of the wine bottles that are already collected today can increase the amount of wine bottles for refilling. Furthermore, a more gentle handling during the collection will also lead to a reduced amount of discarded wine bottles at the bottle washing plants. Thus, it is assumed that a more gentle handling during the collection can give up to 8,500 tons of more bottles for refilling.
In addition, it is assumed that a maximum of 40% of the wine bottles that are in the household waste today can actually be collected, cleaned and refilled, equivalent to an increase of 2,300 tons of wine bottles for refilling. This is less than what would result from a more gentle handling of the already collected wine bottles.
An increased collection of cullet from the household waste is mainly a environmental advantage because of the reduced amount of glass heated up for no reason.
All in all, a more gentle handling of the collected wine bottles in the collection system and an increased collection of wine bottles and cullet result in:
• Considerable energy savings (Primarily in Spain, France etc. where production of new bottles and extraction of raw materials for this can be avoided. The energy consumption in Denmark will be increased).
• Reduced contributions to the global warming, photochemical ozone formation, acidification and nutrient enrichment. This is mainly caused by the reduced energy consumption. Hence, the environmental impacts will be avoided in Spain and France etc, but the environmental impacts in Denmark will be increased.
• Increased contributions to the stratospheric ozone depletion. However, the contributions seem relatively insignificant for the overall conclusions when taking the weighting of the EDIP-method into consideration.
• Significant reductions in the amount of slag and ashes from Danish waste incineration plants. When using the weighting of the EDIP-method, this fact is essential for the system.
• Considerable reductions in the amount of bulk waste and hazardous waste (caused by the avoided production of new bottles and extraction of raw materials for this. Accordingly, the waste amounts are primarily avoided in Spain, France etc.).

On this background, it is concluded that it will be environmentally profitable to optimise the existing Danish system. First of all, it yields considerable environmentally advantages to handle the wine bottles more gently during collection, transport and trans-shipment in order to gain more bottles for refilling. Secondly, it yields considerable environmentally advantages to collect more of the glass from the household waste in order to avoid useless heating of the glass in waste incineration plants and in order to collect more bottles.
In addition to the general comparisons performed, it should be noted that the system could attain considerable environmental improvements by solving the problems with the labels on the wine bottles as discussed in the report.
Today, there are significant problems involved in removing some types of self-adhesive labels when washing the bottles. The self-adhesive labels are used by wine producers world wide and they cause significantly higher consumption of energy, water and chemicals at the bottle washing plants. As the energy consumption at the bottle washing plants is significant for the system, it is important to work out a solution.

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