Every year, May 17th marks World Recycling Day. It was established by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2005. Correctly managing waste is vital for the sustainability of the planet and circular economy models have much to teach.
The excessive generation of waste goes hand in hand with a linear economy model under the logic of “use and throw away”. World Recycling Day recalls the need to make a transition to a circular economy based on choosing environmentally friendly materials, eco-design and real recycling, to raise awareness about the impact of this procedure to preserve the health of the environment.
Glass: the most recycled packaging material by weight
Glass is the most recycled packaging material by weight in Costa Rica and in the region. Currently, more than 122,000 tons of glass are recycled in Central America each year, the equivalent of more than 345 million containers per year and enough glass to go around the planet Earth twice if we align the bottles that are recycled around the equator.
Due to the properties that nature gives to this material, which is made from pure, natural raw materials, glass is a permanent material that has the advantage of being 100% recyclable and infinitely recyclable. Glass recycling is extraordinarily simple, and is based on the simple melting of post-consumer waste to later form new bottles, this without having to add potentially polluting chemicals or additives.
In the case of glass, it is a unique material that allows new containers to be produced with 100% recycled content. In such a way that it is an efficient and true recycling model, from bottle to bottle. It is not a mere cleaning or collection activity. “With glass it is all about pure recycling!”, commented Gerald Jiménez, from GrupoVidrieroCentroamericano, VICAL.
Another great advantage of glass is that it is recycled in the same plant that produces new containers and, most importantly, this post-consumer material is transformed locally, so the material does not have to travel long distances to other countries to be transformed, but the glass recycling happens directly here, in Costa Rica. In addition, recycling glass contributes to a significant reduction in CO2 emissions, energy savings, and waste. Additionally, this practice promotes the generation of hundreds of jobs for small and medium enterprises dedicated to the recovery of this material, which can be recovered and offers very stable prices.
In terms of recovered amounts, Costa Rica is the second country that most recovers and recycles glass in Central America, managing to recover 80% of the glass bottles that were placed in the Costa Rican market in 2021, a mark similar to that obtained by some countries in Europe. All this material was reintroduced into the glass production process, turning them into new containers ready for their next life cycle. It is the best example of the application of the circular economy.