Putting post-consumer glass recycling in the spotlight

Ian Short
Ian Short

The recent G23 Award win for the post-consumer glass recycling initiative developed by Morley Glass in conjunction with Saint-Gobain Glass is an important step in changing attitudes to the disposal of old IGUs, as Morley Glass MD, Ian Short, explains.

Winning a 2023 G-Award for the post-consumer glass recycling scheme we have developed in conjunction with Saint-Gobain Glass, has sparked the debate about what our industry does with the thousands of end-of-life IGUs that installers remove from windows and doors every day.

In picking up the award for ‘Sustainability Initiative of the Year’, it is fantastic that the scheme has received high profile recognition from our industry peers – and that’s extremely important in increasing awareness of the need to recycle building glass as a whole. But it could be a much more significant moment and provide the catalyst for large scale, post-consumer glass recycling to finally take off in the UK.

A simple concept

One of the main reasons why the recycling scheme we have developed has become so popular with installers is because it is straightforward and easily accessible.

We only have to look at household recycling to appreciate that many more people recycle today compared with 20-30 years ago, largely because councils have made it easier for everyone to do by providing various bins and setting fixed collection days.

Our scheme starts with Morley Glass delivery drivers collecting old IGUs from installers at no cost when they drop-off new orders of our Uni-Blinds integral blinds. Once back at our HQ, we crush these using state-of-the-art machinery that is able to take fully intact IGUs at one end and generate cullet (crushed glass) at the other. To date, over 1,500 tonnes of cullet have been generated through the recycling process.

As the cullet is of such high quality, it is a valuable raw material for Saint-Gobain which can use it, following some additional processing, for the remanufacture of new energy efficient building glass.

This means lower volumes of virgin raw materials such as sand are required – in fact, since we started the scheme in 2021, we have saved nearly 2,000 tonnes of sand from extraction.

The raw material saving, however, is only one of the scheme’s benefits. Using more cullet also means less energy is needed to power the furnace during glass production, lowering CO2 emissions and energy use.

Saint-Gobain’s formula for calculating the savings reveals that the volume of cullet we have generated so far has saved more than 1,100 tonnes of CO2 from entering the atmosphere, and 831 ‘energy years’ – the amount of energy the average UK home will use in 12 months.

So, a simple change in how we dispose of old sealed units by putting them aside for collection rather than dropping them in the general waste skip for landfill, is massive. It is one of the ways our industry can improve its green credentials at a time when our role in providing sustainable building products becomes ever more recognised by the general public and policymakers.

Supporting local communities

The final dimension to our glass recycling scheme is that it provides financial support for local initiatives dedicated to environmental and social improvement. The revenue raised through the production of cullet means we can ringfence thousands of pounds every year in the GreenVision fund, a pot of money used to provide grants to charities, groups and individuals.

The good causes that have benefited to date include a dance school providing scholarships to children in disadvantaged areas and an organisation which manufactures blankets for homeless people using waste crisp packets.

As glass recycling volumes increase, we look forward to supporting many more initiatives like these in 2024.