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In-depth study needed to help boost flat glass recycling

Europe – Flat glass is an important material in buildings and can help the EU achieve its ambitious goals on resource efficiency ‘provided that end-of-life management is improved’, the Glass for Europe trade association has stated.

Highly-recyclable end-of-life building glass is ‘almost never recycled into new glass products’, and yet a large proportion of the flat glass could be easily recovered and recycled in glass furnaces, according to Glass for Europe. ‘Besides, the flat glass industry is eager to support the development of end-of-life building glass collection, sorting and recycling, and is ready to use more recycled glass in its manufacturing process, and therefore save raw materials,’ it says.

An in-depth study is required into end-of-life building glass and current practices across Europe ‘in order to apprehend the scale of the challenge and to identify best practices’. At present, some local solutions exist but they remain ‘experimental and very marginal’, contends the association.

Zero percent

The EU’s 70% target for reuse and recycling applies only to construction and demolition waste in general. This means that, because glass represents less than 1% of this waste stream, the target ‘does not serve as an incentive to set up flat-glass collection schemes’, underlines Glass for Europe. ‘Moreover, in theory this target could be achieved with 0% of glass being recycled.’

Eurostat estimates that Europe generated roughly 330 million tonnes of construction and demolition waste in 2010. ‘Even if glass represents about 0.66% of this waste, the quantities of end-of-life glass generated from this source are not negligible,’ the association argues.

The ‘right balance’

The variety of building glass and building types creates a major complexity; also, the fact that this type of glass is usually part of a framed window and not a ‘stand-alone’ product makes collection more difficult, observes the association. It says governments must work together to ‘find the right balance’ between EU and national measures and initiatives.

Other recommendations include implementation of mandatory provisions for auditing, dismantling and sorting the glass before demolition or renovation of tertiary buildings, as well as banning the disposal of recyclable flat glass to landfill.

Glass for Europe has four members: AGC Glass Europe; NSG Group; Saint-Gobain Glass; and Sisecam/Trakya Cam.

For more information, visit: www.glassforeurope.com/en

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