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Dryden Aqua show they have the bottle

Iain Gulland - Director, Zero Waste Scotland | 27 Nov 13

Last week I attended the opening of the award winning Dryden Aqua new glass reprocessing plan in Midlothian. The £5 million plant accepts green glass and reprocesses it into a filtration media for use in swimming pools and water treatment works. But the alchemy which the owner and founder Howard Dryden has developed goes even further with a new product to clean up drinking water in the developing world. Over a quarter of a million people in India suffer from arsenic poisoning from drinking contaminated water supplies so Howard’s new filtration product based on recycled glass will have a far reaching impact on the health of some of the world’s poorest communities. Who would have thought that simply recycling your green glass bottles could save lives?  

Standing in the plant yard listening to Richard Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, welcoming guests from around the world to the opening and setting out the importance of such a facility, both in terms of our zero waste ambitions, jobs for the local economy, and the wider global impact, I was struck by the fact that this is what we have all been waiting for in the recycling world. A narrative to take to consumers which is beyond the usual ‘saving the planet’ line and one which surely will cut through any hesitation that recycling is the right thing to do.

But for Howard, getting a supply of glass into his plant is fraught with difficulty. The usual glass supply lines are not geared up for his model. Councils, who provide the main recycling facilities to the public, deal in either mixed glass (all colours together), or have procurement processes which mean they have to sell the three colours to the same buyer. So to buy green glass only, Howard has had to look to life-saving glass from abroad - at five times the price.

Developing a circular economy here in Scotland needs a more flexible supply chain which is both dynamic and responsive to this kind of innovative entrepreneurship.  If the current ‘waste management system’ can’t flex to support initiatives such as Dryden’s then we undoubtedly need a new system which can.

The Midlothian plant is surely the opportunity we have been all waiting for to re-invigorate our recycling culture, with a new call to arms to get people recycling more green glass for a life-saving purpose. It’s time for councils and others to dust down those forlorn green glass banks left sulking in the corner of pub and supermarket car-parks and fight for the public’s attention. Let’s get people recycling their green bottles again in a way that is easy for the green glass to be kept separate and passed on to Dryden’s. By backing this with an imaginative campaign asking for people to ‘donate’ their bottles to such a good and noble cause, we will be able to re-engage with people on the issue of recycling in terms of valuable resources.

I can see supermarkets across Scotland rising to the challenge with in-store messages about the importance of bringing your wine and beer bottles back. Highly visible green glass banks strategically placed near the front door of supermarkets will reinforce the message. A simple milk round of the various containers across Scotland will then capture the important feedstock for Dryden’s process. Can anyone else imagine this?

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