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Glass recycling: positive data in 2021, between successes and new challenges

The “Sustainable Development Foundation” has produced a report, Il Riciclo in Italia 2022, to evaluate the trend of the Italian recycling sector and aim at the full efficiency of the supply chain.

The data collected by ASSOVETRO describe a growing industry, with a production of about 6 Mt and an increase of 9.4% compared to the previous year, also induced by the recovery of sectors linked to glass, such as construction, food and wine.
However, the continuation of critical factors, including, in particular, the increase in the cost of raw materials and the supply difficulties, resizes the scenario, raising a big question mark on the future of the Italian glass industry, already conditioned by the challenges associated with the PNRR, the decarbonisation and the new European rules of the Fit for 55 package.

The value of glass cullet

To overcome the challenges described above, the glass industry must invest in the reuse of glass cullet. The most relevant advantages of this virtuous practice of sustainability are:

  • the reduction of the environmental impact associated with the production of glass;
  • the drop in emissions from glass melting furnaces;
  • the decrease of the mining activity, with a net reduction of the consumption of natural resources.

The availability of SRMs

In fact, the waste recovery process makes it possible to use the secondary raw material (SRMs) in the glassworks, instead of virgin raw materials, to produce new packaging. This operation originally requires efficient separate collection. And, in this sense, the Italian glass recovery chain is among the best in Europe. In 2021, in fact, 77% of the packaging released for consumption was recycled, with around 2.2 Mt of glass packaging waste recovered, thanks also to the powerful efforts of the CoReVe Consortium.
The percentage achieved is the result of constant growth (by as much as 38 percentage points), which from 1998 to 2021 favored the recycling of around 35 Mt of glass packaging waste.

The next goals

Almost all of the Italian population (97.5%) is directly involved in the collection of glass packaging waste. Despite this figure, to date, still 400,000 tons of glass cullet are destined for landfills. Being able to intercept and recover even this last percentage of glassy waste will be the main mission of the partnership between collection managers and municipalities in the coming years.

However, the national glass supply chain has another limitation: the need to resort to the importation of large quantities of glassy scrap (more than 230,000 t in 2021) to meet the demand of the glass packaging industry. To deal with an increasing demand for secondary raw materials, it will therefore be necessary to develop further projects for the promotion and development of separate waste collection, such as the one between CoReVe and ANCI. Lastly, in order to be able to meet the growing demand, the currently limited production of colorless MPS glass will have to be increased to expand the possibilities of absorbing cullet glass in Italy.


Read also: Glass Alliance Europe calls for urgent EU energy and economic support
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