Councils' fears realised on glass recycling

British Glass Recycling (BGR) has announced that it will reduce the price it pays to glass collectors by £8-11 per tonne from January. Local authorities and other collectors are up in arms over the cuts.

BGR, a new joint venture between United Glass and Rockware, has been reviewing the prices it pays for collected glass over the past few months. Glass collectors, especially local authorities, reacted angrily when they got a whiff of the potential size of the reductions (ENDS Report 224, pp 12-13 ). Many believed that their entire recovery programmes would be put in jeopardy.

Local authorities were finally notified of the price changes at the end of October. Rumours of a price cut of around £10 per tonne turned out to be correct.

Prices paid to a contractor in east London will fall from £28.70 to £20 for green glass, £35.80 to £24.75 for clear glass and £33.30 to £22.50 for amber glass. Similar reductions have been imposed throughout the country.

Enfield Borough Council has calculated that its annual income of £10,000 for recovered glass will now fall to near zero, and it will have to rely on an increase in recycling credits from next April to compensate for this loss. The council cannot stop glass collections because, like many authorities, it has to pay back loans received through supplementary credit approvals for bottle banks. BGR's critics believe it is hogging the extra recycling credits to itself knowing that councils have little option but to play along.

To make matters worse, the cuts apply from 1 January, rather than the beginning of the financial year in April. Councils will have to find funds from other sources over this period to ensure that budgets are adhered to - a difficult task in today's financial environment.

Some recycling officers believe that BGR has introduced the cuts from January to take advantage of the large volumes of bottles dumped after Christmas and the New Year in order to increase profits.

BGR's terms of payment have also been altered. Glass collectors were previously paid 15-20 days after receipt of an invoice. But this has now been extended to 60 days. Small collectors are being hit particularly hard. Ochil Glass Recycling in Scotland has reportedly gone out of business because of the change.

Recycling officers have been particularly disturbed by BGR's failure to explain why the cuts have to be so large. The company blames reductions in the cost of raw materials for virgin glass, although the size of this is widely disputed. It is believed that BGR will be seeing the executive board of the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee in private to explain its calculations. Unless a credible explanation is forthcoming, BGR's motive will be perceived as being to milk glass recycling for every penny it can.

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