Comment: The future’s bright for UK glass

Bottle production process at Encirc Glass.
Bottle production process at Encirc Glass.

Fiacre O’Donnell, of Encirc Glass, looks at how the UK glass industry is performing, consumers’ attitude to the packaging format, and why it is still one of the most sustainable options.

Fiacre O’Donnell, marketing manager, Encirc Glass
Fiacre O’Donnell, Encirc Glass.

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Towards the end of 2014, Dairy Crest announced that it will be phasing out its glass bottles over the next two years in favour of plastic ones.

The announcement led to speculation over what the future may hold for the glass industry, and sparked fears that the future of all glass containers might be in decline.

However, while the glass milk bottle may become a thing of the past, this does not reflect the industry as a whole.

Indeed, the UK glass market recorded increased production figures for 2.8% in the first six months of 2014, and this growth looks set to continue as consumers become more aware of the health benefits that glass can offer.

Recent research by the European Container Glass Federation (FEVE) suggest it is these health and safety concerns that are driving the resurgence of glass packaging among European consumers, with 87% indicating that glass is their preferred packaging choice.

Encirc is a market leader in glass container design, manufacturing, bottling and logistics solutions for the UK and Irish food and beverages industries.

With almost 1,200 employees, it operates from its purpose-built sites in Derrylin, Co Fermanagh, NI and Elton, Cheshire, the company produces more than 6.5m glass bottles and other containers daily, and can fill up to 4m litres of bulk shipped beverages every week.

Further support for the glass industry is being garnered by various international governments, including India, who is officially recognising the health benefits that the inertness of glass offers. 

When it comes to the environment, the on-going debate surrounding the  circular economy connected to packaging demonstrates that, while it is still considered detrimental to many non-glass packaging businesses, it is something the glass industry has been doing very well.

And while the weight of the final products and associated transportation costs may be cited as a reason to choose plastic, it is imperative that the industry considers the entire lifecycle of a container, and the environmental consequences of the manufacturing methods required to create it, rather than simply looking at one area of the process.