Recycling Our Way to Recovery
The following statement has been issued by Joseph Cattaneo, President, Glass Packaging Institute.
ALEXANDRIA, Va. - Over the past year, there have been promising signs that the United States is recovering from the so-called 'Great Recession.' In recent quarters, the country's Gross Domestic Product has been in positive territory. The housing market, though far from vibrant, has shown some modest signs of life. And the stock market has recovered a great deal of the ground it lost in the initial months after the credit crisis of late 2008 and early 2009.
Despite these encouraging signs, though, unemployment continues to be near a 25-year high. With the official jobless rate near double digits, there are concerns that the economy may begin to slip back into a dreaded double-dip recession. Because of this, it is in the best interest of the country to promote job creation in all sectors of the economy.
One area that has the potential to create more jobs while promoting good environmental stewardship is recycling. According to the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) U.S. Recycling Economic Information Study, the recycling and reuse industry employs more than 1.1 million people, generates an annual payroll of nearly $37 billion and grosses more than $236 billion in annual revenues. This represents a significant force in the U.S. economy and makes a vital contribution to job creation and economic development.
To take advantage of the job creation potential of the recycling industry, it is important to raise the bar on recycling. For its part, the glass container industry, its companies, and thousands of employees set an ambitious goal in late 2008 of using at least 50 percent recycled glass in the manufacture of new glass bottles and jars by the end of 2013. In several states, glass manufacturing plants are already using 70 percent recycled glass, or cullet, to make new glass containers, showing that reaching the goal nationwide is possible and imminent.
Glass container manufacturers continue to create awareness about the energy savings of using cullet and help to improve cullet recovery, which must work better to make U.S. recycling successful. However, glass container manufacturers cannot meet the goal alone. The industry is asking consumers to recycle more glass bottles, and continues to call on recycling processors, local recycling coordinators, and industry affiliates to help improve technology that will allow for all glass bottles to reach their ultimate potential: endless recyclability into new glass containers.
A peer-reviewed, independent life cycle assessment recently sponsored by North American glass container manufacturers reaffirms the significant environmental benefits of glass container recycling. Glass is infinitely recyclable and can be made into new glass containers endlessly without loss of quality or purity. Use of cullet in the manufacturing process minimizes consumption of raw materials, lessens the industry's demand for energy, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Using cullet is a triple-win. In addition, glass is made from all-natural ingredients (sand, soda ash, limestone and recycled glass), and is the only packaging material accepted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as 'generally recognized as safe' (GRAS) for food and beverage contact.
The glass container industry has long been committed to and engaged in promoting recycling in the U.S. and will embrace all measures that efficiently and effectively improve glass recovery. As early proponents of drop off collection centers and then later, curbside recycling, the industry has actively supported efforts to improve single stream curbside best practices. Such improvements could help maintain glass containers as a viable commodity grade product suitable for bottle-to-bottle or cradle-to-cradle recycling. Glass container manufacturers also continue to actively support on-premise bar, restaurant, and hotel recycling initiatives, as more than 28 percent of beverages packaged in glass are sold in restaurants and other away-from-home venues. The industry also supports state beverage deposit laws or 'bottle bills' where these programs make sense.
When you recycle your glass bottles and jars, you save resources for future generations and help create jobs in the U.S. America needs sustainable industries like glass container manufacturing for future jobs and a healthy manufacturing base. To encourage more people to recycle glass, glass container manufacturers are participating in the Glass Packaging Institute's second annual Recycle Glass Week, September 12 - 18, 2010, where glass container industry employees will hold over 50 recycling awareness events across the country. We have the power to help all glass bottles reach their ultimate potential: endless recyclability.