South Africa’s glass recycling success story

Most consumers understand their purchase decisions affect the environment. This is what makes buying and reusing glass packaging a smart option. Locally produced, this type of packaging contains at least 40 per cent of recycled glass. Recycling resources are in development countrywide thanks to significant growth in glass recycling.

Glass bottles and jars made in South Africa contain at least 40 per cent of recycled glass

The beauty of glass goes beyond aesthetic appeal. Widely known for its recyclability and reuse, the preference to pack food and beverage products in glass is attributed to its non-reactive, clean and healthier appeal.

The lucrative demand for and growing consumption of alcoholic beverages is driving the global growth of glass packaging.

Alcoholic beverage packaging not only dominated the market in 2016 but is also projected to be the fastest growing application to 2023.

Recycling rates unpacked

According to The Glass Recycling Company reports that the most recent glass recycling rates in South Africa totals 41.5 per cent. Glass recycling amounts have increased by 18 per cent over the past 12 years. This means glass bottles and jars made in South Africa contain at least 40 per cent of recycled glass. This is one of the highest percentages of recycled content for all packaging materials manufactured in the country. Glass bottles and jars are 100 per cent recyclable and can be recycled endlessly without any decline in purity and quality.

TGRC is the official South African organisation dedicated to raising awareness on glass recycling.

Landfill diversion rates

There are more than 1 200 landfill sites in South Africa which receive approximately 90 per cent of all solid waste. Government has a target of reducing the weight of industrial waste sent to landfill by 20 per cent and domestic waste by 60 per cent by 2025. The concerted recycling efforts of citizens and businesses will help government achieve these targets. While packaging materials make up less than two per cent of all the municipal solid waste sent to landfills annually, glass packaging makes up a small portion of the two per cent.

Owing to the infinite recycling of glass, 82 per cent of glass bottles and jars were prevented from being sent to landfill during the 2016/17 financial year.

A call for unity

TGRC is calling on all establishments not already involved in recycling to get started as it’s an easy way to contribute to a circular economy and protect the planet. A simple solution is to install a glass bank on the premises.

‘Glass banks are regularly serviced and maintained, which allows establishments to grow their recycling activities whilst raising awareness of the benefits of recycling,’ TGRC reports

Recycle, return and reuse

South Africa has one of the most efficient returnable bottle systems in the world owing to the efforts of a number of brand owners and the retail sector. The majority of beer, wine and spirits producers in the country make use of returnable glass bottles, which are be sent back to the brand owners, sterilised, refilled and redistributed for consumption.

The strength of glass bottles as a packaging material makes it ideal for returnable programmes. These bottles are reused numerous times, delivering significant environmental protection benefits. The efficiency of this system is evidenced by the approximate 2.5 million tonnes of filled glass packaging consumed annually in South Africa. Because of this, only 900 000t of new glass is produced per annum.