EU Campaign ‘Close the Glass Loop’ Sets Ambitious Glass Recycling Goals

May 14, 2020

The glass container manufacturing industry is rallying around “Close the Glass Loop,” an ambitious campaign to increase the quality and quantity of recycled glass collected across Europe. 

Recycled glass, called “cullet,” is one of four ingredients—sand, limestone, soda ash, cullet–used in the glass-making process. For example, glass containers made by O-I Glass have an average of 38% recycled glass; in Europe, that number is as high as 90%.

Glass packaging has numerous earth-friendly benefits. For one, glass is infinitely recyclable and can be recycled again and again. The modern glass-making industry has built its supply chain around the use of recycled glass to make new glass containers, driving up the demand for cullet.

Glass is already Europe’s most recycled food and beverage packaging material, according to FEVE, the EU’s Container Glass Federation. Europe already has an impressive 76% collection rate of used glass packaging. The Close the Glass Loop campaign aims to increase that to 90% by 2030.

Recovering even more recyclable glass, like the Close the Glass Loop campaign aims to do, reduces the amount of new raw materials needed to make new glass bottles and jars. When manufacturers use more recycled glass to make new glass, plants use less energy and lower greenhouse gas emissions. 

Close the Glass Loop Sets Ambitious Targets

The mission of the Close the Glass Loop campaign supports new EU recycling legislation. The Packaging Waste Directive increases country-by-country recycling targets to 70% by 2025 and 75% by 2030. The new targets will measure the actual recycling of packaging materials, not just the rate of collected materials. As of November 2019, several EU nations post collection rates above 90%, including Belgium, Finland and Sweden. Others collect under 60%, including Portugal and Hungary.

Most of the 30 billion glass containers recycled in the EU go directly back to one of the 160 glass manufacturing plants in the Union, proof that glass is a first-class packaging option for a closed loop economy.

The Close the Glass Loop campaign encourages everyone in the loop, from glassmakers to consumers to waste collection services to municipalities, to share knowledge and best practices around collecting, sorting and treating recycled glass containers, even across country lines. 

European Shoppers and Companies Embrace Glass Packaging’s Benefits

Not only is collecting more and better quality recycled glass good for glass manufacturing, but it’s meeting an increasing consumer demand.

Motivated by glass’s earth-friendly benefits, Europeans are choosing glass packaging more than ever according to a study commissioned by Friends of Glass and FEVE.

The survey, which was released in April 2020, reached more than 10,000 Europeans. The results show shoppers are looking to lessen their impact on the environment and they are looking to glass packaging as one way to do that. Half of consumers surveyed say they’re buying more glass packaging than they were three years ago; 46% say they’ve significantly decreased their consumption of plastic to prevent littering. And 84% say they collect their glass separately for recycling–a key step in an efficient glass collection system and a positive signal that consumers recognize the role they play in ensuring a tighter glass recycling loop.

Companies are hearing that shoppers want food and beverages in glass packaging, too. The German-based grocery store chain Lidl, with 11,000 locations worldwide, has promoted numerous sustainability targets, including reducing the volume of plastic packaging in its stores by 20% by 2025. As part of its promise, Lidl recently announced its “We get into glass” campaign to highlight products that come in glass jars or glass bottles instead of alternative packaging. The grocer is reinforcing the reusability of glass on its YouTube channel with its “decoration muse” Pauline, who demonstrates artistic ways to reuse glass containers around the house.

As shoppers and stores continue to choose glass packaging for its myriad of earth-friendly and health benefits, the Close the Glass Loop campaign is focused on getting all stakeholders–consumers, waste collectors, glass manufacturers, food and beverage producers—to capture more glass. The more recycled glass that stays in the loop, the better glass manufacturers like O-I can use it to create a sustainable, earth-friendly glass bottle and glass jar.