Glass recycling: all that you need to know
05 Dec 2022 /

Glass recycling: all that you need to know

It was 1982 when, as well as the World Cup with its Naranjito mascot, the first bottle banks arrived in Spain in the form of green igloos which would be the first bins for the recycling of glass containers. In February of that year the first bottle bank in Spain was installed in the Madrid neighbourhood of Moratalaz.

The regulations were gradually improved and 1994 saw the approval of the European directive that would make packaging companies responsible for funding the recycling of their packaging. In 1997 the Law on Packaging and Packaging Waste was enacted, giving rise to the current recycling system.

Some figures. Since 1998, more than 11 million tonnes of glass containers have been recycled in Spain.

Forty years after those first green igloos, Spanish people recycle more than 7 out of 10 glass bottles and jars. The United Nations has placed the focus on this material, declaring 2022 the International Year of Glass, thus, “recognizing the scientific, economic, environmental and cultural importance of glass as a transformational element of humanity”.

Igloo yes, igloo no

It is important to distinguish between glass and crystal. The green bin should not be used for drinking glasses or similar items.

Glass wine, liqueur, juice, soft drink, sauce, water, lemonade and beer bottles should be deposited, rinsed if possible, without lids or corks and without labels.

The green igloo should also be used for glass demijohns, jam jars without lids and glass jars used for yoghurt and other dairy desserts (not those made from terra cotta or ceramic).

Joy by neighbourhoods

There are great differences between autonomous communities. The Balearic Islands is the leading region in glass recycling (31.6 kilos per inhabitant), followed by the Basque Country (28.4), La Rioja (28.2), Navarra (26.6) and Catalonia (22.5). The ranking is closed by Extremadura (8.9), Castilla-La Mancha (14.2) and Andalucía (14.4).

However, the highest growth levels in the selective collection of glass during the past year were seen in Extremadura (+15%) and Andalucía (+11%).

As for provincial capitals, those that recycle the most are San Sebastián (42.0 kilos per inhabitant), Pamplona (30.7), Bilbao and Palencia (23.9), Palma de Mallorca (23.7) and Barcelona (23.4).

Spain records a recycling rate of 70%, exceeding powers such as the United Kingdom. For the first time, the 28-member European Union obtained a recycling rate of 73%, as revealed by the latest figures published by the European Federation of Glass Packaging Manufacturers (FEVE). With over 25 billion glass containers recycled, the industry remains one of the best examples of the Circular Economy.


The green impact

The recycling of glass has a direct impact on the environmental footprint of the packaging industry, allowing savings in energy and raw materials as well as the creation of more than 125,000 stable jobs at European level.

In the case of Spain, the glass packaging sector generates almost 11,000 jobs, contributing 860 million euros to GDP and acting as a driving force and support to export. As a result of the awareness campaigns developed by, among others, Friends of Glass, Spanish consumers show a high level of awareness with regard to glass recycling.

Figures for glass recycling during the last year can be interpreted as environmental benefits such as precluding the extraction of more than a million tonnes of raw materials (sand, soda and lime) and preventing the emission of 556,061 tonnes of CO2 to the atmosphere (similar to travelling by plane more than 100,000 times the distance between Spain and Australia).

Last year alone, 5,873 new green igloos were installed at the kerbside to reach a total of 230,950 bins, making the ratio in Spain one for every 204 inhabitants.

Photographs: Ecovidrio.