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Life Cycle Analysis of Glass Confirms Recycling Benefits

 As the amount of recycled content in glass bottles goes up, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and energy demands go down.

So says what the Glass Packaging Institute (GPI) is calling the first "complete and thorough" life cycle assessment (LCA) of glass containers, conducted by sustainability consulting firm PE Americas.

The LCA takes into account the full life of glass containers, from raw material extraction to end-of-life recycling. PE Americas collected data from 105 furnaces in North America, representing 75 percent of North American glass container production. 

For every 10 percent increase in the amount of recycled glass, or cullet, that is used to make containers, CO2 emissions go down 5 percent and the amount of energy needed goes down 3 percent.

Using recycled glass reduces impacts from extracting and processing raw materials as well as emissions from melting glass.

The GPI, a trade association, says that the emissions saved by using current levels of recycled glass are equal to or more than the emissions from transporting finished products. Transportation accounts for less than 5 percent of glass' life cycle emissions.

In 2007, the North American glass industry had an average of 23 percent post-consumer recycled content. GPI member companies plan to bring that to 50 percent by the end of 2013.

Glass bottles - CC license by Flickr user James Cridland

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