A LONG-TERM SUSTAINABILITY SOLUTION
As a country we consume in excess of 3.1 million tons of glass a year of which two thirds is reusable and can be diverted from landfill; estimates put glass at 4.5% of the waste stream. As South Africans we should be striving for a resource efficient economy where pragmatic sustainability measures, like glass recycling, drive waste reduction.
Not merely a socially conventional activity, recycling glass makes a material difference – saving energy, water and natural resources, while reducing waste landfill. Unlike other materials in the waste stream, glass can also be recycled an unlimited number of times without compromising on quality; product integrity is retained. When using recycled glass (cullet) there are no losses in the melting process; one ton of cullet will generate one ton of bottles. In contrast it takes approximately 1.2 tons virgin batch material to manufacture 1 ton of glass.
The recovery and recycling of used glass containers has and remains a Consol priority with sizeable investment into capacity development. As the largest glass manufacturer in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Group is committed to assisting in the achievement of South Africa’s climate change obligations and to converting consumers into agents of change.
THE ROAD TO RECYCLING
All glass bottles and jars are recyclable and there are more than 3 000 bottle banks strategically placed in cities throughout South Africa to assist in domestic recoveries. This waste glass, banked for the good of the environment, is collected by local independent registered waste collection agents and sold back to the glass packaging industry.
Once collected, waste glass is separated into colours, cleaned and crushed into what is known as cullet. Before recycled glass is melted, contaminants must be removed in the processing plant and include:
- Ceramic and wire caps
- Lead collars and wire caps
- Stones, dirt and labels
- Metal caps, lids and neck rings and aluminium
The cullet is then mixed with silica sand, soda ash and limestone, and while these are all plentiful natural ingredients, they are finite. By supplementing these raw materials with between 355 and 80 % cullet depending on furnace colour, our irreplaceable natural resources are conserved. This mixture is melted (at lower temperatures because of the inclusion of cullet) into a molten state, poured into moulds and slowly cooled.
DID YOU KNOW
Every 10% increase in recycled glass equals a decrease of:
- 10% in sulphur dioxide (SO2)
- 6% in nitrogen oxide (NO2)
- 17% in carbon dioxide (NO2)
- 1% in electricity and natural gas
- 6% in furnace temperatures (during the manufacturing process)
- 8,5% in raw materials
Materials not recyclable through consol include:
- Ceramatic cups, plates and pottery
- Clay garden pots
- Laboratory glass
- Crystal and opaque drinking glasses
- Mirros, windshields and window glass
- Heat-resistant ovenware (for example, Pyrex or Visionware)
- Light bulbs, fluorescent tubes
- Burnt glass
THE REWARDS OF RECYCLING
Not only an environmental obligation, one that will protect our heritage, glass recycling is linked to job creation and income generation; entrepreneurs can collect improperly disposed of glass containers in return for cash. This waste glass can be sold on to registered recycling companies or directly to Consol if the quantities are sufficient. To deal directly with Consol, a collector must supply more than 10 tons of waste glass a month on a regular basis.
Consol has two plants which receive, buy and process waste glass. If Consol has to collect outside of Gauteng or the Cape Peninsula, the minimum quantity is 30 tons; own deliveries are acceptable down to around five tons per delivery. Those who cannot supply the minimum quantities directly can sell to a local buy-back centre or recycler who buys from the public.Anyone can collect and sell waste glass. No capital outlay or formal qualifications are necessary to collect glass, but hard work, good organisation and perseverance are mandatory requirements.
COLLABORATION FOR A CAUSE
Consol is an active member on the board of The Glass Recycling Company (TGRC) which was established through a partnership between national government, glass manufacturers, fillers and recyclers. This national organisation, which is endorsed by the Department of Environmental Affairs, is responsible for promoting and facilitating the recovery of waste glass for recycling. To this end, the not for profit company educates communities about the importance of protecting the environment through recycling, and provides infrastructure and equipment to qualifying collectors.
TGRC DOES NOT BUY WASTE GLASS; THIS IS A FUNCTION OF THE GLASS BOTTLE MANUFACTURERS
- 8 out of 10 South Africans think glass is the most environmentally friendly packaging*
- Recycling one glass bottle can power a TV for 20 minutes or a computer for 25 minutes
- Recycling glass saves water and natural resources and reduces waste landfill
- Recycling one glass bottle save the same energy as burning one 100-watt light bulb for nearly an hour.
- Glass is enduring – it’s 100% recyclable
* IPSOS Khayabus research Nov 2013
If you’re thinking about the environment, glass is the better choice. Let’s collectively reduce our carbon footprint by cultivating ethical consumption and recycling behaviours.