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Glass Cullet Collection Systems

We have known glass for thousands of years. We use it every day in various forms and it is a natural part of everyday life. Our ancestors discovered they were able to make something similar to glass by heating sand and ash. They obtained hard, semi-transparent and matt material. Today’s glass is much different than the one in the past, and thanks to advanced technological opportunities we are able to use fewer and fewer raw materials to manufacture it. Thanks to recycling, we can also use glass cullet as the raw material today. This enables to reduce environmental pollution with waste glass. Collecting glass cullet is also highly economical, as glass may be processed an infinite number of times.

There are many glass cullet collection systems worldwide. As a matter of fact, every country has its own method and rules of segregating it. Below, we present just a few of them to illustrate what it is like in other European regions when compared to Poland.

Glass collection in Poland

In Poland, there have been selective glass collection rules introduced recently, uniform for the whole territory. Until then, the communes took care of selective waste collection themselves and it was frequently just a division into wet and dry waste. Unfortunately, this was ineffective as the obtained materials were not of the highest quality. This is why the recycling level was very low in Poland and the glass cullet was processed only in small quantities.

The today’s system facilitates segregation by people, as every commune, pursuant to the Regulation of the Minister of Environment on the Detailed Way of Selective Collection of Chosen Waste Fractions, is obliged to provide containers or bags in appropriate colours.

Apart from provision of the tools to facilitate segregation of waste glass, what counts is also education. This is related not only to teaching children, although this is also crucial to teach, as early as possible, it is so important to take care of the environment, but also to teaching adults. Many people still do not segregate waste. This is why it is so important to provide information on the correct ways of segregating waste, i.e. what can be put into the container and what must not.

How does it operate in our neighbor states?

Let’s take Lithuania, for example. There, the selective collection system was created from scratch starting from 2003 when the Packaging Directive came in force. The communes are also obliged to collect waste selectively here, and glass recycling reaches 67%. Container for all glass types is used there, without separating into colours.

Our neighbours use about 80 thousand tonnes of glass packagings a year, i.e. as much as in Poland per capita (26 kg, with about 3 million residents of Lithuania). This is much less than per capita in the European Union on average! Education and information play essential roles in our neighbour state, thanks to which they shape positive waste segregation habits.

What is it like in the North?

A good role model in the North is Sweden which only confirms that education is highly important for the society’s awareness. Also media keep informing the society on waste segregation. It seems also that the Swedes have keeping their surroundings neat and tidy breed in the bone which is why the glass recycling reaches as much as 95% there!

The Scandinavian country uses 190 thousand tonnes of glass packagings a year and they are collected in the whole country. Swedes have close to 6 thousand collection points situated in various locations. Although the residents of this country are scattered over large territories, each of them has less than 500 metres to the nearest waste collection point.

Also here the collection system is uniform in the whole country, while the system of collecting household waste may differ in particular regions.

What does glass recycling look like in South-eastern Europe?

A good example to discuss is Portugal, a country situated at the boundaries of Europe. Recycling reaches 53% there, which is much less than in Sweden, but every other glass packaging is reused. More than 430 thousand tonnes of packagings are used there per year, with 39 kg per capita, which is similar to the mean value in the European Union.

In Portugal, the communes are responsible for the selective collection system, and a single container for glass collection serves 250 residents, resulting in 50 thousand containers altogether. This country is considered an important glass cullet importer as Portugal is one of the largest glass packaging manufacturer in Europe. Also here much importance is attached to education and information on the glass recycling advantages. Every container has a list of items which may be put there attached.

Education is a key to success

The conclusion from the above discussion is that the most important aspect likely to result in increased recycling efficiency is informing and educating the society with respect to waste segregation. This really helps and has good results. Although every country has its own, different glass cullet collection system, the objective stays the same, namely to increase the recycled glass quantity.

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