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Glass Packaging Institute calls for New York State Bottle Bill revision in circular glass economy drive

#Glass Packaging Institute calls for New York State Bottle Bill revision in circular glass economy drive

27 Oct 2023 — Scott DeFife, president of the US’ Glass Packaging Institute (GPI), testified before the New York State Senate and Assembly Committees on Environmental Conservation, highlighting the benefits of proposed bottle bill legislation and voicing support for the efforts of State Senate Environmental Committee Chair Peter Harckham and Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee Chair Deborah Glick to usher the bill into law. 

DeFife said in written testimony that GPI supports expanding the state’s bottle bill to capture all beverage containers, especially as serious consideration is being given to establishing a packaging-focused extended producer responsibility (EPR) program. 

Packaging Insights discusses GPI’s request to expand the bill and the advantages and challenges for implementing EPR and deposit return systems (DRS) in New York State with DeFife. 

“The joint hearings on EPR for packaging and DRS this week brought forth a great deal of testimony about the challenges and the distribution of responsibility. Understanding that these challenges are best addressed by a joint public/private program structure and properly establishing the responsibilities among the different sectors is necessary to begin the process,” DeFife tells us. 

He continues that the biggest challenges for enacting EPR for packaging in the US are understanding the infrastructure needs and establishing goals that all stakeholders can agree to work toward.

Empty and full beverage glass bottles for Fanta and Sprite.Most of the recycled glass that comes back into the supply chain for new bottles comes from the US states that already have DRS, says DeFife.DRS versus curbside 
Most of the recycled glass that makes it back into the supply chain for new bottles and jars in the US comes from the ten states that already have deposit return programs, like New York.

DeFife says that one of the quickest ways to increase the availability of high-quality materials in those states is to expand the products covered under the program. 

“The quality of the glass recovered through the deposit return (bottle bill) program is always much higher than any glass recovered through the curbside commingled recycling system, even when there is a dual-stream system in place in municipalities such as NYC. This is an important distinction — having a bottle deposit program reduces energy consumption and the need for raw materials,” wrote DeFife in his testimony. 

The glass container manufacturing industry is a “cornerstone of the local economy” in New York and across the country, highlights GPI. With two glass container manufacturing plants in New York — O-I Glass in Auburn and Anchor Glass in Elmira — GPI recognizes the substantial contribution of these plants to the state’s economy, producing millions of bottles daily for local and regional markets and creating jobs.

“Several beverage categories are covered in other deposit return states and could be added into the New York bill. In addition, the glass processing infrastructure in New York is more capable of processing the cleaner streams of material from the DRS rather than the curbside commingled system.”

GPI’s president asserts that EPR and DRS can and should work together. Deposit return is a form of EPR for beverage containers, and a majority of glass containers are for beverage containers. 

“The bottle bill, if expanded but also modernized, can be an effective program to collect that packaging. This is why GPI, as well as many other package industry stakeholders, believe that a bottle bill expansion works best in concert with a packaging EPR program. All curbside materials are more efficiently processed and have higher yields when most glass is collected through a bottle bill and the EPR program is primarily focused on plastics and fiber,” explains DeFife.

Prioritizing recycled glass Empty glass bottles in crate.The US industry purchases 2.3 million tons of recycled glass yearly.
DeFife says that EPR for packaging is new in the US other than if one considers the deposit return programs as a form of EPR. 

“While many other EPR programs exist for specialized products or hazardous materials such as batteries or motor oil, EPR for broad-scale packaging is new. The models that are being looked at most closely are those of some European countries or Canadian provinces right now.”

DeFife also notes that a more efficient, closed-loop system for glass recycling is vital to achieving sustainability goals, reducing environmental stress and preserving valuable resources. 

“Recycled glass is a key component of the manufacturing process,” said DeFife in written testimony. “The US industry purchases about 2.3 million tons of recycled glass each year, and the average bottle or jar contains 1/3 recycled glass.”

“For every 10% of recycled glass added to the batch mix, energy usage can be reduced by 2-3%, with additional corresponding reductions in GHG emissions. When you add the benefit of what is a better than 1-to-1 offset of raw materials saved by using recycled glass to make new containers, it is clear that using recycled glass has significant benefits to the environment of the region and should be prioritized.”

By Natalie Schwertheim

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