Legislation and glass collection systems
Europe has several different systems of glass waste processing. They can be roughly divided in three types:
- Extended producer responsibility
- Deposit system
- Traded rights
In Finland, there are separate collection systems for packaging glass and for glass bottles with refund. Those glass types can be easily utilized. In addition, some amount of glass waste generated e.g. in households (drinking glasses, windows) are not suitable for the abovementioned collection systems but are mainly put in the mixed waste.
Suomen Keräyslasiyhdistys recycles glass packaging
Suomen Keräyslasiyhdistys is a producer organisation for packaging glass, founded in 1998. The association promotes the recycling and other utilising of glass and reduces the generation of glass waste. The Finnish Collectors’ Glass Association organises the reception and utilisation of glass packaging waste in cooperation with Suomen Pakkauskierrätys RINKI Oy. https://rinkiin.fi/kotitalouksille/pakkausten-kierratys/lasipakkaukset/#08137416
Glass can be recycled unlimitedly for the manufacture of new packaging without lower quality or cleanliness. From Rinki ecopoints, glass packaging waste is transported to terminals (38 in Finland). Glass waste from terminals is delivered to glass processing plants in Forssa and Estonia. In plants, glass packaging waste is processed. Impurities are sorted out of glass packaging waste, cleaned and sorted in colour. After processing and crushing, it is raw material for glass packaging factories, where new glass bottles and jars are made of the material.
Almost all glass waste is recycled. The use of recycled glass as a raw material for a new packaging is environmentally friendly and reduces the need to use virgin raw materials. Careful sorting according to Rinki’s instructions is important. Only glass bottles and jars should be returned to the glass collection container, as they are suitable for recycling. For example, drinking glasses, oven pans, crystal or porcelain are not suitable for recycling as they have quality properties that prevent or hinder recycling.
Glass packaging waste is made into:
- mainly new glass packaging, i.e. glass bottles and jars.
- some glass packaging waste is also made into construction products, such as foam glass and glass wool. https://rinkiin.fi/tietoa-ringista/suomen-kerayslasiyhdistys/#08137416
Glass recycling means that the collected glass waste is modified into a new product or material for either original or other purposes. Recycling saves natural resources and energy and reduces CO2 emissions and landfill loads.
In the glass recycling industry, the following include:
- Pre-treatment of packaging glass waste for recycling: Maltha Group BV, Netherlands; Krynicki Glass Recycling OÜ, Estonia; Uusioaines Oy, Forssa
- Glass wool production: Saint-Gobain Rakennustuotteet Oy, Forssa and Hyvinkää
- Manufacture of foam glass: Uusioaines Oy, Forssa
- Manufacture of packaging glass: including Owens-Illinois, Estonia; Ardagh Glass, United Kingdom https://rinkiin.fi/app/uploads/2021/05/Rinki_vuosikertomus_2020.pdf
Rinki recycles almost 100 per cent of the glass packaging without deposit of its customer companies. In 2020, the amount of glass packaging waste that arrived at recycling terminals was 24,900 tonnes. Different products are produced from glass for recycling: about 82 per cent is used for the new glass packaging and about 18 per cent are made into etc. glass wool, foam glass and building blocks. https://www.palpa.fi/juomapakkausten-kierratys/pantillinen-jarjestelma/
Beverage packaging tax guides
According to the law, packages of certain alcoholic beverages and soft drinks are subject to a beverage packaging tax of €0.51 per litre, but the tax does not have to be paid if the beverage manufacturer or importer joins or arranges an approved and effective refund system itself. The recycling targets of return systems and the minimum values for deposit on different beverage containers are laid down in the Government Decree. In practice, the majority of beverage manufacturers and importers have joined the return systems managed by Suomen Palautuspakkaus Oy, Palpa. By joining Palpa’s return systems, beverage manufacturers and importers are exempted from the beverage packaging tax. https://www.palpa.fi/juomapakkausten-kierratys/eri-juomapakkaustyypit/
RECYCLED GLASS BOTTLES
The glass can be recycled almost endlessly. Each ton of glass made of recycled glass consumes about 30% less energy than making it from virgin raw material. Recycled glass from bottles is very clean compared to the glass material from Rinki points. Empty bottles are transported from the return point to the processing plant, where they are crushed, cleaned and sorted for recycling according to colour and transported to be used. Every Finn returns 24 bottles of recycled glass with a deposit every year. In a year, that’s about 130 million returned bottles. In 2020, the return rate of glass bottles was 87% (calculated from the packages).
REFILLABLE GLASS BOTTLES
The return system for refillable glass bottles was created as early as the 1950s. Refillable bottles are mainly traditional brown beer bottles. Ekopuloyhdistys is responsible for the return system for refillable glass bottles, further information https://www.ekopullo.fi/en/. Refillable glass bottles are washed and inspected every time they are refilled. On average, glass bottles can be refilled 33 times during their lifetime.
How the recycling system works?
Glass bottle collection and processing is handled in Finland by company Suomen Palautuspakkaus Oy (Palpa). Palpa does not generate profit. The system works so that the producer either pays a tax of 0,51 euros/liter or joins Palpa collection system. Usually the latter is a cheaper option.
Finland has one of the highest rates bottle return – in 2018, 88% of all glass bottles were returned (and 95% of cans).
88% of all glass bottles returned
Palpa’s business works in a following way:
- Costs are covered with fees collected from producers and importers of drinks
- Palpa compensates collection points (usually stores) for maintenance costs. The bottle return machinery is however purchased by the store itself
- Palpa pays for transportation
- Palpa pays for glass processing
- Processing complex pays Palpa the price it gets from the material
Reverse vending machines used in Finland are mainly produced by three companies; Tomra, RVM System, Diebold-Nixdorf.
In stores the bottles are collected in containers of 600 or 240 liters. The transporter picks them up and takes either to temporary storage or directly to the processing complex. The transport is loaded from the back and has a hydraulic waste presser.
Palpa has a contract with two glass processing companies; Finnish Uusioaines Oy and glass package producer in Portugal. Uusioaines has also own transportation volumes.
Empty glass bottles from offices, hotels, schools and event organizers are collected by the same distributor who brings the full bottles in the first place.
Palpa return systems for beverage containers
More information about Palpa operation logic: https://www.palpa.fi/beverage-container-recycling/deposit-refund-system/
2. Other glass packages
Collection rate of other glass packages (not under deposit system) is also high: 90%. Same as with bottles, producer or importer can join a collection system organized by Suomen Paakauskierrätys RINKI Oy which will organize the waste processing on behalf of the producer. Collection and utilization are executed together with Suomen keräyslasiyhdistys ry. All collection points meant for private consumers can be seen on a following electronic map: https://www.kierratys.info/
90% of other glass packages returned
Some resident’s associations have their own collection. In this case collection is handled by the municipality (or a subcontractor). The collected glass is usually taken to a temporary storage in Ammässuo. From there the glass is further transported to Forssa to be processed by a company Uusioaines Oy.
Uusioaines recycles glass into foam glass and new packaging glass. There is also another company in Finland producing new material from recycled glass – Saint-Global Rakennustuotteet Oy. Significant part of new packaging glass is however manufactured abroad.
3. Other glass (mirrors, windows)
Uusioaines Oy also processes glass that is not used as a package.