Glass wins consumer favour29 September 2011
Glass is gaining increasing consumer support as the packaging material of choice, finds Felicity Murray, who talks to FEVE, the industry’s Brussels-based European federation, as it supports the launch by the Friends of Glass consumer forum of another strong and environmentally led promotional campaign, called ‘Pass the Bottle’
Production data shows that 2010 was a much better year for the European container glass industry with 20.7 million tonnes of glass produced compared with 20.1 million tonnes in 2009, an increase of 3.5%.
The greatest increase was recorded in Turkey (27%) and the UK (9.5%). In Italy (5.2%) and Poland (5.7%) the increase was significantly better than in Portugal (1.9%), Spain (2.7%) and in northern and central European countries (1.7%). In Germany, the situation was stable (0.2%) however, in France a slight decrease was recorded (-0.1%).
The industry, therefore, continued to make a major contribution to the European Union (EU) trade balance by conveying high quality products to consumers inside and outside Europe. As such, it contributes to the wealth of the real economy in the EU with its network of around 160 local manufacturing plants employing about 50,000 people (see map).
Thanks to the growing commitment to recycling by members of the public, container glass recycling is constantly on the increase. More than 67% of glass bottles and jars were collected for recycling in the EU in 2009 (66% in 2008). This translates into about 11 million tonnes or 25 billion glass bottles and jars being collected, confirming the steady and positive trend.
Glass is 100% and endlessly recyclable. About 80% of collected glass is recycled in a local bottle-to-bottle production system. Bottle-to-bottle glass recycling helps reduce demand for primary raw materials by reusing valuable materials which would otherwise end up as waste. It also helps by reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
Recycled glass stands out as a truly reusable material and, therefore, a resource-efficient solution. In comparison, materials that are down-cycled to make products other than the original, are rejected from the closed loop system and often ultimately end up as waste destined for incineration or landfill.
Because glass is locally collected, recycled and produced, container glass production and glass recycling contribute to creating and securing economic growth and local employment in the EU.
These characteristics put glass at the centre of the stage in the ambitious strategy of the European Commission to create a ‘circular economy’ where recycling is the key factor to waste reduction and where waste is considered a valuable resource.
In March this year, the EU directive to ban the use of the organic compound Bisphenol A (BPA) in plastics feeding bottles for infants, published on 28 January 2011, took effect in the EU member states. On that occasion, the European Commission referred to glass “as an alternative material to polycarbonate” because it does not contain BPA and is safe for human health, as it has to comply with very strict safety requirements set out for food contact materials.
The legislation considers container glass as one of the most chemically and biologically inert materials and, therefore, a standard in terms of consumer health protection. Glass is exempt from the EU regulation REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of CHemicals). Glass vessels are so chemically stable that they are extensively used in toxicological tests. Furthermore, should glass end up in landfill, it is accepted without further testing because it is not harmful for the environment.
A recent Europe-wide survey released by the independent research consultancy InSites found that three-quarters of European consumers preferred glass as a packaging material for food and drinks. The top three key reasons given were: glass packaging preserves the taste of its contents; it is considered healthy and safe; and it is environmentally ‘friendly’.
The survey’s findings are consistent with the growing consumer trend of wanting to live a healthy and sustainable lifestyle. Recent developments such as the increase in glass recycling and the recommendation from the European Commission for parents to use glass baby bottles, strengthen these lifestyle trends and responsible consumption in a resource-efficient Europe.
The wide-ranging InSites study polled around 9,000 consumers in 17 European countries about their perception of packaging materials.
Friends of Glass
Friends of Glass is a European consumer forum that supports and promotes the right of consumers to be able to choose food and drink products in glass packaging. It unites all those who believe glass is the clear choice for themselves, their families and for the environment.
The Friends of Glass forum was initiated in 2009 in response to a pan-European survey commissioned by FEVE in September 2008, by the research institute InSites. This survey found that 74% of European consumers prefer glass packaging for their food and drinks.
New Friends of Glass actions and campaigns will continue to talk with consumers. The latest of these actions is ‘Pass the Bottle’ to promote the act of glass recycling and its benefits. By recycling, glass bottles are effectively passed from consumer to consumer, from generation to generation. ‘Passing the bottle’ is the very essence of recycling.
Friends of Glass, therefore, launched a social media campaign on Facebook last month (September) introducing a competition that aims to reward people who recycle glass and to encourage them to recycle even more and in better ways.
The European container glass industry supports the initiative, which turns the socially responsible act of recycling into a fun social media game.
‘Pass the bottle’ wants the 6,000 Friends of Glass Facebook fans throughout Europe and the world to get into action by recycling a virtual glass bottle and inviting new friends to do the same. As in real life, the game aims to show that the social act of glass recycling is rewarding for the environment. These fans are part of more than 15,000 Friends of Glass group members who will be invited to join the social game and have a chance to be rewarded for their action.
The game involves sharing a good moment with friends by passing each other a virtual glass bottle of a delicious drink until the bottle is empty and successfully recycled. The one who recycles the bottle is the winner because “recycling glass is a win-win for people and for the environment”.
As it is fundamental to keep glass recycling as pure as possible, the game also directs people to information sites that explain how to be a good recycler by showing them what not to throw into the bottle bank.
In partnership with the Wine in Moderation campaign, an initiative of the European wine sector, game winners over 18 years of age receive a bottle of wine. Wine in Moderation promotes responsibility in the consumption of wines and reminds consumers that each wine is a natural product with a cultural heritage and only by drinking in moderation can the unique character and flavours be savoured. And glass fully preserves these qualities.
Trader’s Point Creamery have partnered glass manufacturer Vernallia North America to introduce to the organic food industry a new way of packaging cheese - in the only container rated as generally safe for food and beverages by the FDA. By using eco-friendly glass, instead of plastics, the risk of leaching is also eliminated and the shelf life is extended, says the company.
More glass bottles are being produced Bottles Glass - seen as environmentally friendly Leaf FEVE map of the percentage of container glass collected for recycling in European countries Recycling Europeâ€™s glass manufacturing plants Manufacturing FEVE consumer campaign on Facebook Campaign A new way of packaging cheese Cheese