Why Californian glass products use less cullet

California manufacturers of glass bottles and fiberglass insulation continue to use less recycled cullet in their products, official documents show.

California Department of Recycling and Resource Recovery (CalRecycle) reported in 2018, bottle manufacturers used 432,000 tonnes of post-consumer cullet, down 8% year on year, and fiberglass manufacturers used 205,000 tonnes, down 12%. Bottles and fiberglass are two major end markets for recovered glass.

In 2018, bottles made in the Golden State had 43.5% recycled content, and fiberglass made there had 50.5% recycled content. This is down from 50.0% for bottles and 53.0% for fiberglass in 2015.

Resource Recycling has looked at reports from previous years and found that the percentage of recycled content in bottles and fiberglass has declined steadily since at least 2015. Regarding the total tonnes of cullet consumed, the bottle manufacturers have always used less. The tonnages used by fiberglass manufacturers have fluctuated but have increased slightly.

California law requires glass bottles sold in the state to contain at least 35% post-consumer glass, or 25% if the cullet is of mixed color. Fiberglass should contain at least 30% post-consumer glass.

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Table detailing the use of recycled glass content.What drives the trends?

Laura Hennemann, vice president of marketing and communications at Strategic Materials, said CalRecycle’s numbers are comparable to what Strategic has seen. Strategic Materials operates glass cleaning plants where contamination is removed and the glass is sorted by color for sale to manufacturers. It has facilities across North America, including half a dozen in California.

Regarding bottles, she noted that domestic manufacturers compete with beer bottles imported from Mexico and wine bottles from China. To make their products more attractive, domestic manufacturers are rolling out new bottle designs, including new colors, which generates more cullet internally. Hennemann suggested they used more internal cullet and less Strategic cullet.

Despite declining sales in the bottle and fiberglass markets in California, Strategic does not land any product, Hennemann said. California glass is of high quality, which is why the company employs a number of strategies to ensure it ultimately goes to high value-added markets.

Hennemann also contrasted the quality differences between glass returned via the California Redemption Value (CRV) system, which is 98% usable, and via curbside collection, where the glass has 30-40% contamination. .

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Chart detailing the use of cullet in California.CalRecycle data shows a constant change in glass collection channels over the past four years. The amount and percentage of return through the CRV system has decreased. In 2018, 63% came from the deposit program, up from 69% in 2015.

Redemption centers in California are under financial pressure and many have closed.

Susan Collins, executive director of the Container Recycling Institute (CRI), which supports bottle invoices, noted that there was less glass collected overall in California. She pointed out several reasons: A large number of redemption centers have closed in recent years and, as of 2013, consumers could no longer redeem a mixture of glass with deposit and without deposit.

She also noted that fiberglass manufacturers actually use a bit more cullet, but due to the construction boom they are making considerably more insulation. As a result, the average recycled content decreases.

“The cullet will be all sold. There is never enough supply, ”Collins said. “Right now, in a construction boom, more will go to insulation. It’s cyclical. “

Photo credit: Mark Agnor / Shutterstock

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