Indeed, glass has long been recognised by brand owners as a healthy, sophisticated and 100% recyclable packaging choice, able to meet consumer needs on a functional, emotional, aesthetic and sensory level.
Innovation in glass manufacturing is ongoing; and glass can be moulded into an infinite number of shapes and sizes. And, with the use of labelling, embossing, debossing and other decorative treatments, glass has the power to elevate a brand from ‘ho-hum’ to hot property.
‘Collaboration with our customers and proactive response to local and international market trends is mandatory in today’s commercial arena,’ remarks Consol marketing director, Dale Carolin. ‘Even in tough economic times, investing in leading-edge technology and securing the right professional and creative partnerships is a must and, to this end, we’re continually elevating our status with the introduction of new-age production processes and inspiring product innovations.’
Responsible manufacturing philosophy
Boasting an annual turnover of R4.5-billion and a 2 500-strong workforce, Consol has manufacturing operations in Clayville (Midrand), Wadeville (Germiston), Nigel (Johannesburg) and Bellville (Cape Town), plus two recently-acquired businesses in Nigeria and Kenya. With 13 furnaces and 33 manufacturing lines, production capacity tops one-million tons of glass/annum.
As the largest glass manufacturer in Africa, exporting to 17 African countries, Consol is making significant strides towards improving production efficiencies and reducing the impact of processed glass on the environment. This includes using additional cullet (recycled glass) to reduce the energy required to melt glass, lightweighting, and rethinking its entire value chain, especially cullet collection. ‘We’ve opted for an international standard of carbon footprint measurement, using the cradle-to-cradle approach, in line with global best practice,’ Dale continues. ‘Measured on a cradle-to-cradle basis, glass has the lowest carbon footprint when compared to other packaging formats,’ he maintains, going on to explain that the cradle-to-cradle calculation includes the environmental impact from mining raw materials to packaging production, distribution and storage and, importantly, end-of-life environmental impact.
‘The overall objective is for glass to be produced, used, recovered and eventually recycled with minimal environmental impact,’ he insists.
With a focus on safety for employees, contractors and ultimately consumers, Consol complies with all relevant manufacturing standard specifications, including ISO 14001: 2004, ISO 9001: 2008, FSSC 22000: 2010, SANS 1840, as well as a recommendation for OHSAS 8001:2007.
For over 60 years, Consol Glass has delivered expert advice and shared extensive knowledge on technical aspects of glass manufacturing with its customers, in the process gaining a positive reputation for collaboration. And, besides these extensive benefits, the group offers brand owners full access to its comprehensive bottle design service, analytical laboratory and training school, plus a technical team available 24/7 for glass filling line support.
Having access to international expertise and dedicated local resources provides an opportunity for shared learning and benchmarking and in the last three years Consol has joined forces with long-time industry partner, Owens IIlinois (O-I), to design and develop some truly ground-breaking, creative glass packs for international brands. ‘Traditionally, we’ve enjoyed a close technical partnership with O-I. However, as a result of O-I’s strategic investment in innovation and glass science, we’re now building stronger marketing and R&D ties, collaborating on exclusive and exciting projects – from design to trial phase runs and, ultimately, commercial production campaigns,’ Dale explains.
One of the world’s largest glass container manufacturers, US-based Owens Illinois has over a century’s expertise in crafting, glass packaging. In October 2013, its management team decided to launch a stand-alone innovation centre and manufacturing facility, focusing on emerging technologies in glass production to revolutionise the process of melting and forming glass.
The 2 200m2 facility, approximately one-tenth the size of a typical manufacturing plant, houses a 20-ton oxy-fuelled furnace, two production lines and inspection equipment. On one line, sample bottles and trials for new products are manufactured, significantly reducing the time needed to produce exactly the right bottle and minimising disruption to the main manufacturing plant. The other line is dedicated to R&D, specifically developing new technologies and processes for melting and forming glass.
As Dale comments, the availability of these advanced resources has allowed Consol Glass to accelerate the pace at which sample bottles are produced and production changes tested. ‘It’s a model that’s unprecedented in the industry,’ he adds.
‘With a wealth of traditional production expertise behind us, we’re now taking a more creative approach by taking our lead from extensive consumer research to define future requirements for our packaging collections,’ Dale says.
This ‘disruptive’ marketing strategy has already spawned commercially-viable innovations such as married runs, embossing (internal and highly-embossed), debossing, long necks, square shoulders, push-ups, black glass and more.
‘Coupled with value-added services such as forehearth colouring, ACL (Applied Ceramic Labelling), self-adhesive labelling, sleeving, coating and speciality imports – we’re qualified to provide world-class glass containers that promote brand identity, marketability, and shelf appeal,’ he adds. ‘The beauty of glass packaging is it can be adapted to take advantage of what works best for different marketing channels, whether on supermarket shelves, or in taverns, bottle stores, or pharmacies. And, with the ongoing support of O-I and other like-minded industry partners, we’ll continue to deliver meaningful, relevant glass packaging to leading brand owners worldwide.’
The goodness of glass
With over a billion bottles recycled in the past year, it’s clear that glass remains an important and sustainable packaging solution.
This was the message delivered by Shabeer Jhetam, CEO of The Glass Recycling Company (TGRC), at this year’s Annual Green Dialogue.
Over the last eight years, the glass recycling rate has risen from 18% in 2006 to its current level of 40.9%, an impressive increase that results from TRGC’s efforts to nurture a recycling habit among South Africans through effective communication by creating a solid national glass collection infrastructure, as well as promoting the use of returnable bottles using a deposit system.
TGRC has provided nearly 4 000 glass banks in convenient locations making it easy for consumers to drop off glass for recycling. In addition, South Africa boasts one of the world’s most sophisticated returnable bottle systems resulting in three-million tons of glass packaging being used annually yet less than one-million tons of new glass being produced.
Jointly, this means that 80% of all glass packaging used in South Africa annually is prevented from entering landfills either through recycling or the use of returnable bottles.
TGRC was established by South Africa’s glass manufacturers and brand owners using glass package, in line with their commitment to Extended Producer Responsibility.
‘We’re also committed to uplifting South Africans by providing access to an income source for the unemployed; and it’s with this objective in mind that we established buy-back centres owned by entrepreneurs across the country,’ Shabeer comments.
To encourage South Africa’s next generation of eco-warriors, TGRC also hosts an Annual Schools Glass Recycling Competition. Last year, contributing schools collected around 1.5-million bottles and jars. By recycling this glass, the schools saved enough energy to light a compact florescent bulb for 1 255 years! As well as placing glass banks at the schools, TGRC supplied curriculum-compliant material to enable teachers to facilitate a holistic view of the glass recycling process.
The use of recycled glass when manufacturing new glass containers reduces the amount of energy needed for production. As there’s no limit to the number of times glass can be recycled, the repeated environmental benefits and the energy saving as a result of glass recycling are unique to the container industry.