The journey of a glass bottle

Every year we collect thousands of tonnes of waste glass bottles and jars from boxes and bottle banks in and around Shrewsbury.  But that is just the start of the recycling process.  Have you ever thought about what happens next?

From here it gets bulked up at our waste transfer stations like the one on Battlefield in Shrewsbury then taken to Recresco in Ellesmere Port - in huge lorries carrying up to 29 tonnes at a time.

Here the waste glass (known in the industry as 'cullet') is loaded into a hopper using a huge mechanical shovel and then carried on conveyor belts into the washing plant.  They rinse and sieve the cullet to remove anything that isn't glass.  All the bottle tops, caps, corks, labels, stones, ceramics or other unwanted contaminants are removed. 

The cullet is then passed through a series of automated hi-tech optical sorters which separate it out into the three main colours - clear, amber and green - remember when we had to keep all our glass separate by colour? Well there is no need any more as their state of the art equipment can automatically sort even tiny fragments at a rate of 10 tonnes of cullet every hour.

This strict quality control process means the cullet is good enough to make new glass bottles which is considered the greenest option.  In part this is because making bottles from virgin materials like sand uses huge amounts of energy but cullet is easier to melt, so much so that recycling a single glass jar saves enough energy to power your computer for 25 minutes! 

The high quality also means that the glass bottle manufactures can use a much higher percentage of our material than they otherwise would.  For example - did you know that the average wine bottle sold in the UK contains 70% recycled glass content?

Ultimately the cleaned up colour separated glass is a valuable raw material which gets sold on to the adjacent factory (literally on the same industrial estate in Ellesmere Port) which is run by bottle makers Quinn Glass and they use it to make glass bottles for some of the UK's leading drinks brands. 

So next time you are sitting down to enjoy your favourite tipple, think about the amazing journey that glass has been on and how by recycling your bottles and jars you are not just helping to minimise the need for landfill in Shropshire which helps keep your Council tax down you are helping to sustain British manufacturing, create jobs in our region and help the UK to reduce our energy consumption and carbon emissions.

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James Thompson James Thompson

Waste Prevention Officer, Waste Management, Shropshire Council

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