Boosting recycling levels would be a major opportunity for the European economy to get out of deep water, a conference in Brussels heard this week.
Some 120 delegates attended the “Circular economy: a waste of time or time for waste?” event, hosted by FEVE, the European Container Glass Federation.
Increased recycling would allow Europe to strengthen and to enroot competitiveness, keynote speaker Vittorio Prodi, Member of the European Parliament with the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats told the gathering.
The manufacturing sector is the economic powerhouse of the EU, and the waste treatment and recycling itself can create new business opportunities and jobs, he said.
In such a difficult time for the economy, the EU can’t afford to miss such opportunities, he argued.
Meanwhile, Stefan Jaenecke, president of FEVE warned that the European Commission must support its manufacturing industries, such as glass manufacturing, as it reviews the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive and targets of the Waste Directive.
Industries which have made strides in recycling – such as the container glass sector – should be supported and encouraged to continue to produce in Europe, he said.
According to a recent study in France, for one job in a glass manufacturing plant, 1.3 local jobs are created along the recycling chain: glass recycling is therefore good for the environment, but also for people and for business, Jaenecke also argued.
In a panel discussion at the event, container glass industry representatives, European Parliament and European Commission delegates as well as representatives from the Wuppertal Institute and management consultancy firm, McKinsey, looked at the benefits of recycling.
Looking at the container glass industry, more recycled glass bottles mean more precious resources for new production, less environmental impacts, less costs, more local direct and indirect jobs.
The “circular economy” where goods are recycled rather than disposed of, must not become a trendy social media hash tag, but actually be a mind-set that informs all European and global business models, they concluded.
Recycling rate for glass bottles
More than 70% of used glass bottles are today recycled and the industry’s ambition is to capture the missing 30% (figures are industry estimates).
The industry would like to see support from the EC in promoting national bottle bank schemes. Legislation should also set equal recycling targets for all materials, not pick out glass for higher targets, he said. And the EU must ensure that taxes on manufacturing sector are not restrictive, or else manufacturers might take their plants elsewhere, a FEVE spokesman told FoodProductionDaily.com.
“Our ambition is to recycle more and more glass into new bottles. There are no limits to that provided that recycled glass is of good quality, and that any legislative measures ensure a level-playing field for all packaging materials,” Jaenecke said.
FEVE is the association of European manufacturers of glass containers and machine-made glass tableware. The members of FEVE produce over 20 million tonnes of glass per year, including a range of glass packaging products for food and beverages.
The association has some 60 corporate members with 160 manufacturing plants are located across 23 European States. These provide direct employment to about 50,000 people.