Glass futures involved in trials to deliver sustainable glass bottles

Glass Futures, the industry research and technology organisation which is set to deliver a global Centre of Excellence in St Helens, has lauded its first trial to create the world’s most sustainable glass bottle an incredible success following initial results.

Friday, 5th March 2021, 12:38 pm
A planning application has been submitted for the Glass Futures Centre of Excellence in St Helens

Glass Futures joined forces with leading glass container manufacturer and filler, Encirc. a Vidrala company, to deliver the research which has proven that new bottles are able to be made from 100% recycled glass, using only the energy from burning ultra-low-carbon biofuels.

It is thought that the world-first initiative will pave the way for an industry-wide reduction in carbon emissions, as the glass sector moves away from fossil fuels, and towards low-carbon alternatives.

Made out of waste organic materials, biofuels are a renewable and much more sustainable fuel source than those traditionally used by the glass sector, and can reduce the carbon footprint of each bottle by up to 90 per cent.

By using up to 100 per cent recycled glass to create the new bottles, the trial has been able to even further minimise the lifetime impact of these products.

More in-depth results from the trial, taking place at one of Encirc’s plants in Derrylin Northern Ireland, are expected to come in over the next few weeks and will feed into UK Government policy around decarbonisation.

The project forms part of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Energy Innovation Programme, within which Glass Futures is leading a £7.1m project to help determine the most effective route to switch the glass sector to low carbon fuels.

A key focus for Glass Futures, and the biofuel project, is further reducing the sector’s carbon footprint and the impact of the glass manufacturing in the UK, futureproofing an industry directly employing 23,000 people.

A planning application has been submitted for the Glass Futures Centre of Excellence in St Helens which is set to create 80 new permanent jobs as well as apprenticeships, training and up-skilling of the glass sector. It will also attract further inward investment to the region as glass companies focus resources to be within geographical reach of the facility.

Aston Fuller, General Manager of Glass Futures, said: “The trial is delivering fantastic results for the manufacturer, end user and consumer. Glass is a fully recyclable and highly sustainable product, but through this trial we are beginning to see the dawn of Net-Zero technologies with Encirc with a full-scale trial of a new alternative low-carbon fuel.

“This is a precursor to the Glass Futures’ Global Centre of Excellence which is being delivered in St Helens, where smaller scale trials will take place with even more innovative approaches.

"These initiatives will catalyse the industry towards more sustainable, zero carbon glass production and the state-of-the-art facility will enable its members and partners to work collaboratively to research, develop and demonstrate innovative solutions.”

Fiacre O’Donnell, Director of Sustainability, Vidrala, said: “The results we’re seeing from this biofuel trial are truly remarkable, and paint a very bright and sustainable future for our industry.

"We’re also looking into the development of hydroge, and advancements in electric melting to truly discover the future of glass production. These ultra-low-CO2 containers we’re making are being produced for some of the biggest names in the drinks industry, showing how united we all are in our quest for total sustainability.

“By working with Glass Futures, we have helped pioneer the development of a glass bottle which is net-zero-ready, meaning it will truly have no negative impact on the environment throughout its entire lifecycle.”

Adrian Curry, Managing Director at Encirc added: “This is a truly momentous occasion for glass. We have set the standard globally with this trial and now the glass industry needs to work towards realising what we’ve proved is possible.

"We now know that glass can be the most sustainable of all packaging types and must all work together to ensure that happens."