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As the largest glass manufacturer in Africa, we recognise our responsibility to drive environmental change in the packaging manufacturing industry and to reduce the carbon footprint or impact of processed glass on the environment. With this in mind, we have pioneered operational practices and holistic sustainability strategies that continue to minimise our carbon footprint.

The total carbon footprint of a product is made up of emissions produced at every stage of its life cycle; many life cycle analyses available today only reflect a portion of these processes

Environmental data available in the packaging industry is inconsistent because of variations in data measurement and the completeness of life cycle assessments of various packaging formats. As a result it has been nearly impossible to compare the environmental impact of one packaging material with that of another. As an industry leader, Consol is both obligated and determined to discover, refine and bring complete carbon life cycle analysis to both customers and consumers.

Many LCAs present carbon footprint data based on the most favourable stages of a packaging material's life cycle. The only approach that generated a complete picture of a product's carbon footprint is a cradle-to-cradle approach, which includes the recovery of post consumer materials in closed loop recycling of the product back to its original purpose

Consol has adopted this international standard of carbon footprint measurement, using the cradle-to-cradle approach that is in line with international best practice.

This approach evaluates the environmental impact of glass from the point where the sand is removed from the ground, through production processes and delivery to our customers, and finally to how it is recovered and recycled. The overall objective is for glass to be produced, used, recovered and eventually recycled with minimal impact on the environment.

eco enviroment

1. Raw material extraction and processing 2. Raw material transport 3. Production process 4. Transport of finished goods 5. End-of-life management

THE CRADLE-TO-CRADLE APPROACH analyses emissions produced at every stage of a product's life cycle. Many life cycle assessments today only reflect a portion of these processes, which results in inconsistencies in current carbon footprint reporting and inaccuracies in the environmental data available in the packaging industry, making it difficult to compare one packaging format with another. With this in mind, we are committed to discovering, refining and bringing complete carbon life cycle analysis to the market.

A year-on-year study over four years of the glass life cycle has shown that glass packaging has one of the lowest carbon footprints (cradle-to-cradle) when compared with other packaging formats.

carbon graph

This graph shows a comparison of the cradle-to-cradle carbon footprint on a typical serving size of 355 ml over four territories, as compiled by Owens-Illinois.

RETURNABLE GLASS CONTAINERS: Returnable (refillable) glass bottles, which can be used up to 30 times, result in a dramatically reduced carbon footprint for products delivered in this manner.

Recycling glass containers also provides unparalleled efficiencies and unmatched environmental benefits. Since glass can be infinitely recycled with no compromise on quality or purity, recycling it saves on virgin raw materials, reduces the demand for energy and decreases emissions. Furthermore, it extends furnace life and produces no processing by-products.

As much as 40% recycled content – cullet (broken glass sourced from production and post-consumer waste) – may be used in Consol's material batches.

Recognising our responsibility to drive and promote recycling, Consol has invested in excess of R240 million in capital equipment to recycle glass. Furthermore, we were instrumental in the establishment of The Glass Recycling Company, which has as its mandate the promotion of consumer initiatives to encourage glass recycling.

A collaborative approach with other industry players has meant that a notable increase from 20% to 40% of glass recycled has been achieved over the past five years.

Since commencing with carbon footprint analyses in 2005, carbon emissions have been reduced by 15% per ton of glass. When combined with lightweighting of bottles, this increases by up to 25%; a net result is the reduction in carbon emissions of approximately 40% for the same product delivered. In addition, approximately 360 000 tons of glass is diverted from landfill and recycled each year, reducing the raw material required and significantly lowering the impact on the environment.

With reduced carbon emissions resulting from the same quantity of products produced, this will surely benefit both customers and consumers, now and into the future, with glass being a sustainable packaging format in the long term.