Glass Is the Best Example of a Circular Economy

    A single returnable glass bottle during its life cycle prevents 39 disposables from reaching the environment

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    World Environment Day 2021, marked the start of the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. To further this, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) published a practical guide that provides an introduction to actions that can delay and stop the degradation of ecosystems and promote their recovery.

    The guide describes ways to get involved in ecosystem restoration during the United Nations Decade, one of them is making smart decisions, such as buying sustainable products. The consumer has the power to make a change from the moment of purchase by choosing packaging that is sustainable and environmentally friendly like glass, the best example of a true circular economy.

    And the fact is that the linear economy —extract, produce and discard— and consumerism, have caused a negative environmental impact; overexploiting natural resources and producing a large amount of waste.

    On the other hand, the circular economy is proposed as a solution inspired by the regenerative cycles of nature where the reduction, reuse and finally the recycling of elements are privileged.

    Glass as a material designed by nature

    The efficiency of the life cycle of glass containers is similar to natural cycles, where the value of waste remains intact by being transformed directly into raw material for the production process of new bottles. This system greatly reduces energy consumption, reducing the consumption of raw materials and reducing the generation of waste exponentially.

    The initial stage of the circular economy seeks at the origin to design products with low environmental impact, with the potential to be disassembled into their parts to be used within the same cycle. Due to its physical-chemical characteristics, glass allows the generation of containers that are easy to reuse or recycle, designed not to produce waste.

    “Speaking of reusing, glass being such a robust material allows it to be reused multiple times. In Central America, returnable glass bottles are reused on average 40 times, which allows a single returnable glass bottle during its life cycle to prevent 39 disposables from reaching the environment,” explained Gerald Jiménez, Image Head of Grupo Vidriero Centroamericano.

    Unique 100% recyclable material

    Glass is produced from 100% natural, sustainable and abundant elements in the earth’s crust, as well as a proportion of post-consumer glass waste called “cullet”. Due to its characteristics, glass is the only material for mass consumption capable of being recycled infinitely many times without losing its properties.

    Jiménez added: “From the origin of its raw materials to its final disposal, glass has unique characteristics that make it a responsible packaging material and the best example of sustainability within the circular economy.”

    Within the glass value chain, there is the glass scrap collection industry, a network of more than 1,150 collection centers throughout Central America that generates at least 2,000 indirect jobs. Glass recycling is an activity with more than 2,000 years of history dating back to the Romans. It is a true bottle-to-bottle recycling, and also, unlike others, glass is recycled domestically and within the same production plant that manufactured it.

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