From clear glass to opaque recycling units


Scrap collectors are no longer collecting glass bottles in the city; recyclable glass is being dumped in landfills every day

Bengaluru: As she works on separating different coloured glass pieces bare-handed in the sweltering summer heat, Shafeena keeps an eye on her two-year-old son, who is playing near the pile of glass pieces, barefoot. Shafeena and 10-odd labourers are working at a glass separating unit, which is a kilometre away from Bengaluru’s un-segregated waste dump yard in Bellahalli. 

The labourers who are from different parts of Karnataka live on-site in tents made of tarpaulin and tin sheets. They earn Rs. 150 per day for separating coloured, plain, mirrored, and one side glass, without any protective equipment. After the separation process, it will be transported to Kolkata and Bombay for recycling. Naveed Khan, the owner of the glass separating unit, said: “With no recycling units and very little resale value in Bengaluru, we have no option but to sell it to Kolkata and Bombay dealers at the price they demand.”

A woman separating different types of glass pieces at a glass separating unit in Bellahalli

Scrap collectors and rag pickers in Bengaluru are no longer collecting glass bottles owing to a dip in the resale value of glass bottles. As a result, the glass bottles that once contained alcohol drinks and sodas are now ending up in dump yards and will probably remain there for centuries. 

K Hari., the owner of Sathya Old Paper Mart, Kumaraswamy Layout, said: “The market value for the glass bottles has decreased a lot since two years. Previously we used to get around Rs. 1-2 per bottle, now a kilo is worth the same money. It’s been around a year since we stopped collecting glass bottles.”

Scrap collectors say the value of a glass bottle reduces if it breaks. “Even if we collect glass bottles, many breaks while we load them into the trucks. That further reduces the market value,” said Selvie Shivan, owner of Shri Vinayaka Scrap Store in ISRO Layout. 

Why is glass recycling necessary?

Experts say any glass piece has a recycling rate of 100 per cent, making every last particle recycle worthy. 

Aadarsh Jaiswal, Digital Marketing Business Manager at Saahas Zero Waste Management NGO, said: “An interesting point about glass recycling is that it can be recycled as many times as required, without harming its quality.

Glass is manufactured using sand, lime and soda ash, and recycling consumes less energy than manufacturing glass. There is only a limited amount of resources left on this planet. Our demand for resources is very high. By recycling, we can reduce our demand for raw materials,” he added.

Steps involved in glass recycling | Credit: Author

Rajesh K Khosla, Chief Executive Officer and President of AGI Glaspac informed the Machine Maker: “For the production of recycled glass, AGI Glaspac also uses cullet from broken glass sourced from waste disposal sites. Khosla explained that to generally make 1 tonne of glass 300 kgs of cullet and 700 kgs of sand are used, however, if more cullet is sourced then these values can be reversed and that would make the products much cheaper and feasible. “

Once the glass is collected in the recycling facility, it is crushed, and the contaminants are removed. Then it is mixed with raw materials to colour or enhance its physical properties. Later it’s melted in a furnace and moulded into new bottles, jars, or into any other desired shape. Due to the relatively low value of cullet, crushed glass which is ready to be re-melted, and high processing costs, much glass ends up in dump yards, says the Daily Dump, a company that offers composting solutions. 

Credit: Author

The city’s glass bottles, broken glassware, mirrors, and bulbs, have piled up in BBMPs unsegregated dump yard. Due to its weight and density, glass makes up a large portion of household and industrial waste. According to the BBMP officials, the city produces 3700 tonnes of waste every day, and 2450 tonnes is dumped in the Bellahalli BBMP dump yard as unsegregated waste. This unsegregated waste includes many recycle-worthy products like glass, e-waste, fabric etc.

Why glass recycling is not happening?

P Vishwanath, Chief Engineer of BBMPs Sewage Waste Management, said: “We don’t have any glass recycling units in Bengaluru, the Karnataka State Pollution Board (KSPB) should initiate this to the state government. Paurakarmikas might be prone to multiple diseases if they are involved in waste segregation. These wastes might include e-waste and sharp objects. Citizens should also take the initiative and segregate at the ground levelVery few kabadiwallas collect glass now. So having no other option the unsegregated waste is being dumped in Bellahalli.”

Passing the buck to the BBMP, Senior Environmental Officer, M G Yatish, said: “We’ve told the BBMP to separate all recyclable materials and send it to recycling units. If they are not doing so, it’s their system that has failed. Glass is not supposed to be going to landfills, it’s non-degradable. That is why so many landfills are increasing in this city.”

Answering why there are no glass recycling units in Bengaluru, he added, “If it’s valuable people will collect it even from dump yard. We don’t have glass bottle recycling as beer bottle manufactures will collect it from bars and restaurants. If anybody comes with a proposal, we will allow them to set up recycling units.”

Chandra Bose, Managing Director of Pandian Glass Traders, said, there are no glass recycling factories in Bangalore. Hyderabad’s AGI glass is the only recycling unit in Southern India. “Mysore Crystals and Victory Glass were the two well-known glass recycling units in Karnataka, however, they shut down 20 years ago,” he said.

Bose added that because of the increase in real estate value and low resale value of glass, no recycling units are present in the city.

Location of few registered glass recycling units in India | Credit: Author

The usage of glass bottles has reduced significantly after the Indian Government imposed a GST of 18 per cent on glass products in July 2017. “Majority of the alcohol drinks we get are in tetra packs. Still, we stock up to 250 glass bottles a week, and the company delivery boy collects it,” said Chandru, an employee at SRR bar and restaurant in Kumaraswamy Layout. 

Contradicting to Chandru’s statement, a few rag pickers and distilleries said companies no longer collect any glass bottles.

 “We don’t collect beer bottles or glass bottles. Earlier we used to get paid around Rs. 2-3 per kg, now the company is not accepting it. So what’s the point in collecting heavy glass items and make very little money from it,” said Annamalai, a rag picker at Sanjaynagar.

Rajashekar. K, General Manager of Materials in Amrut Distilleries, said: “We’ve gradually decreased the use of glass bottles, as we don’t use the reused bottles nor use the recycled bottles. The quality of recycled bottle decreases so Amrut Distilleries does not use or recycle bottles.” 

In November 2017, the American food and beverage company PepsiCo Inc. introduced a non-returnable glass bottle with a twist-and-turn cap for Pepsi Black, a zero-calorie carbonated beverage. That was the first time a carbonated beverage was sold in glass bottles that consumers did not have to return at the point of sale.

The Mint article says, PepsiCo’s 2017 internal estimates, since 2012, packing carbonated beverages with glass bottles has dropped to around 19 per cent from 46 per cent. Companies have even brought single-use polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles, of 250 ml and 300 ml, to eventually replace returnable glass bottles.

 Now, three years down the lane, most of the carbonated manufacturing companies like Coco-Cola, Fanta, Sprite, and more have either completely abandoned or have drastically reduced usage of glass bottles and shifted to PET bottles.

Nakul Chandrashekar, a founding member of Trashin – Bulk Dry Waste Management, Bengaluru, said: “Due to the demand and manufacturing cost of plastic bottles, all the beverage companies are shifting to plastic bottles. That is why most of the waste collectors are not collecting glass bottles.”

Kalam Ali, Manager at Stories Bar & Kitchen in Chanasandra, said: “Our bar sales has reduced since the pandemic. So right now, we collect only five to six bottles a week. The BBMP waste collectors pick it up every week.”

“I have more than 20 beer bottles at my place. The rag pickers take only the tin cans. Sometimes even the BBMP waste collectors refuse to collect such a huge number of bottles, and I have to pay the extra money to take it away,” said Chandan Nagraj, a resident in Bangalore.

According to the Solid Waste Management Policy of the BBMP, glass bottles are segregated as ‘Dry waste.’ The BBMP collects dry waste twice a week. Residents need to hand over the waste to the door-to-door collector coming with a pushcart or auto-tippers. “The dry waste does not decompose, and hence the generators can store it for a longer period. Hence it will be collected twice in a week,” read the policy.  

Few International waste management laws

Refillable bottles are used extensively in many European countries, Canada, and parts of the United States. In Denmark, 98 per cent of bottles are refillable and 98 per cent of those are returned by consumers. A similarly high number is reported for beer bottles in Canada. 

“In India, recycling infrastructure is still underdeveloped as compared to other countries. In India, the percentage of recycling is only around 35%, and in Europe, it is around 80%,” said Khosla.

Germany’s Federal Waste Management Policy says, “Waste avoidance is the priority because it encourages companies to design their manufacturing processes and packaging with the elimination of wastefulness in mind. Second, waste that can’t be avoided must be recycled or converted into energy. Lastly, waste that can’t be recovered must be disposed of in an environmentally safe way.”

Since 2000, landfilling has been banned in Switzerland. All non-recycled combustible waste has to be incinerated. 

Uses of glass recycling

Chandrashekar said, transportation of glass is a difficult process, this way plastic is more flexible. Glass and plastic each have their advantages.

As an alternative solution, Chandrashekar said, “We supply glass debris to multiple Research and Development organisations, they use it to conduct strength analysis and road construction.” 

Credit: Author

For a densely populated country like ours, it is necessary for every individual to not litter and segregate waste from the household level. The glass manufacturers should be responsible and recycle their products. The government should also come up with some stringent federal Solid Waste Management laws and adapt the 3 R mantra (reduce, reuse, recycle), said Jaiswal. 


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