Why isn't glass collected from our homes in Leeds?
We're currently running a campaign, funded by the glass industry, to encourage people to keep recycling their glass - on the back of a massive increase in glass recycling in Leeds last year. During 2020, 37% more glass was collected from glass banks across Leeds - compared with 2019.
But why do we recycle glass in glass banks in Leeds, rather than at "kerbside", as is the case in some other towns and cities?
It's a good question, and as you'd expect it's one that we've been asked a lot, whenever we've talked about glass recycling on Zero Waste Leeds social media. And it's a question people have asked again since we launched this campaign - so we thought it'd be useful to summarise the current situation.
We work closely with Leeds City Council as we share a common goal around wanting Leeds to move towards being a zero waste city. And as you'd expect, as we were developing this industry-funded campaign, we talked with them regularly to make sure that it's a campaign that helps people in Leeds to keep recycling more glass.
We asked them for background as to why, in Leeds, glass is recycled in glass banks, not collected from our homes for recycling. They shared this summary with us:
"Glass collected through bottle banks in Leeds goes to a Yorkshire facility operated by URM where they sort, process and remelt 95% of the glass into new bottles. This minimises transportation of the glass and reduces carbon emissions.
Because we collect glass in this way, the quality is of a very high standard and it can be fully remelted time and time again. Glass collected by other councils along with other materials in recycling bins does not all get remelted, and often a significant amount is instead used for things such as road aggregates. Glass collected in this way also gets in the cardboard and paper and makes that material less recyclable and more difficult to find a sustainable market for.
Additionally, by focusing the collection of glass through a city network of over 700 bottle banks, this has enabled Leeds to expand its garden waste (brown bin) collection service to be the largest in the UK, and be one of a minority of councils that does not charge for garden waste collections.
The Government is currently consulting on its national Resources and Waste Strategy. This includes proposals to introduce more consistency on what councils offer households across the country.
The Government intends to make separate collections of more types of recyclable material a legal requirement from 2024. The strategy makes clear that the Government will provide councils with the funding needed to do this. Separate household collection of glass is part of this consultation, however so is the introduction of a national Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) for drinks bottles.
A successful, well organised national DRS would seem a good way to incentivise the public to recycle glass, but could then significantly reduce the need for a separate household collection service. An update on how the council plans to move forward with glass collection in Leeds will be provided by autumn 2021.”
So, in summary, there's ambition, both locally and nationally, to make it easier for people to recycle glass - and other recyclable materials.
But there's also some uncertainty currently about how that might be done - with consultations currently taking place around standardising recycling services for people across England, and the possible introduction of a Deposit Return Scheme for glass (which might mean that we move to returning our bottles to a retailer, to get a deposit back on the bottle).
So, in the short to medium term, the way we recycle our glass in Leeds will be to recycle it at one of the close to 400 glass bank sites across our city.
Things may well change longer term - either with a Deposit Return Scheme, or kerbside collections, or perhaps a combination of both. But in the meantime, there are 1000s of tonnes of glass to recycle in Leeds each year - at glass banks across the city. So our campaign is focused on encouraging people to keep recycling their glass - whilst also sharing lots of information about the environmental benefits of recycling, and how recycling your glass supports the development of a local, circular economy for glass.
You can find out more about our glass recycling campaign here, and find out lots more about recycling in Leeds here. You can also follow Zero Waste Leeds on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.