Reflections on glass

Pick-up: grabs are needed for glass handling Pick-up: grabs are needed for glass handling
Industry Database

The glass industry is opening handling windows for ports. John Bensalhia reports

Handling of waste has become more and more sophisticated as the global population is increasingly encouraged to reuse and recycle. While materials such as paper, plastic and cans can be taken away and ultimately re-used again and again, another recyclable material has become an important niche cargo for ports: glass.

“Glass is popular for a number of reasons,” explains Tony Oliver, general manager of operations at Shoreham Port. “It is easy to handle, for example. Once you create the area to use, you can easily load the glass on to the vessel by clamshell grab. But one of the most important aspects is recycling. It's always good to see a cargo being used for recycling purposes, and this is one of the most commendable advantages of glass."

“Recycling is an ongoing priority within the UK,” says Jenni Rock, head of procurement at Recresco Ltd. “Using raw materials to make products uses more energy than recycling and reusing existing ones. This means that recycling can actually help reduce energy consumption and in turn, carbon emissions. Recycling also reduces the amount of rubbish being sent to landfill or being burnt in incinerators, which can all lead to harmful gases being produced and escaping into the atmosphere.”

Ms Rock explains that the UK’s current rate of recycling saves more than 18 million tonnes of CO2 escaping into the atmosphere per annum: “This is the same as removing five million cars off the UK road network.”

It's also worth pointing out that using ships as a way of ferrying the processed glass to required destinations also helps the environment. Compared with lorries on the road, a ship makes for a far more environmentally friendly method of transport.


Recycling options

Glass is 100% recyclable and can be used for the likes of new containers, tiles and counter tops. A common type of reusable glass is what's known as cullet – recycled, crushed glass. Cullet offers a number of benefits: it is cheaper than other raw materials and it can be melted at a lower temperature, which in turn allows for lower emissions of carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide. Both high and low quality cullet can be used in a wide variety of applications such as containers, fibreglass, aggregate substitute, and decorative items.

Handling of crushed glass continues at Shoreham Port, as Mr Oliver explains: “We have handled two types of glass commodity – in the past, we have shipped bottle bank glass (also known as kerb side glass) to Portugal (although this has since quietened down), but we continue to ship crushed glass to Belgium.”

Mr Oliver adds that there is greater consistency with the levels of crushed glass. “When we handled kerb side/bottle bank glass, we found that there was more fluctuation in the levels. We used to handle greater quantities following the Christmas and New Year periods. However, with crushed glass, the levels largely stay the same throughout the year.”

Shoreham Port prides itself on its commitment to helping the environment and the export of crushed glass is a good example. In 2013, Silica Developments (SDL) selected the port to handle the export of crushed glass to European markets.

Mr Oliver says that the industry for crushed glass remains consistent: “Although figures for crushed glass are so far slightly less than last year - so far this year, we have managed 11,000 tonnes - the crushed glass industry is still successful. The glass is taken from local banks in the South East of England. These days, we are led to believe most bottle bank glass tends to go further north to areas such as Sheffield, where there is a large storage facility and then forward onto a large factory nearby that recycles glass in the UK.”


Southampton investment

One of the big names in recycling has joined forces with the Port of Southampton to handle recycled glass. “Recresco is at the forefront of modern materials recycling,” says Ms Rock. “We use the latest technology, from the ultimate MSS Color sort equipment from the US to highly efficient PLC controlled sorting systems. Our huge investment in some of the most exciting, cutting edge technology shows our commitment to making recycling a viable, important alternative to throwing things away or using raw materials.”

Ms Rock says that the glass processing facility at the Port of Southampton was built in 1998 and currently offers a provision to collect glass sourced from bottle banks and recycling facilities ready for export to be reprocessed into glass cullet for remelt. The facility is managed on a day to day basis by Solent Stevedores who oversee deliveries and shipments on a regular basis.

A processing facility at the Port of Coeymans also deals with glass. It handles mixed glass from single stream and dual stream material, plus drop-off centre glass. The port can also take on glass cullet and any other kind of waste glass.

The facility uses the Andela Pulverizer System to process the mixed glass. The Andela system comprises a metering surge hopper, glass pulverizer, two conveyors and a trommel separator. The pulverizer itself can process the glass to turn it into usable aggregate that has the consistency of fine sand.


Safety first

An important consideration of glass handling is that of safety. “With respect to safety, as long as you have a separate, suitable bunded area, there will not be many problems. We are careful to keep the glass to the designated area and avoid tippings,” says Mr Oliver.

Ms Rock of Recresco comments: “Safety is of course paramount, and special measures are taken to ensure that anyone entering the site operates in a safe and responsible manner. There is no manual handling of the glass, all movement is completed by loading shovel or crane for which the appropriate training has been completed beforehand to ensure staff safety.”

Time has moved on when it comes to disposing of waste. With greater knowledge and resources, recycling has become a key element in ensuring an environmentally friendly future.

Ports can have a great opportunity when it comes to glass handling and of course, there is also a good market for handling the raw materials used to make glass. “There is a niche for this market,” concludes Mr Oliver. “For example, in Belgium and Holland, the crushed glass is turned to silica. Overall, the crushed glass sector looks set to have a steady, assured future for us.”


Raw material handling gives ports two bites

When it comes to sectors such as glass, it's a two-way street for ports. While the exports of glass remain consistent, ports have also found success with the handling of the raw materials used to make items such as glass bottles and jars.

Take Runcorn Docks for example. Last year, it was reported that Kristin C had discharged its largest ever shipment of cargo: 6,212 tonnes of Turkish soda ash which was bound for Newport Industries Ltd.

Soda ash is big news when it comes to making glass. It's used in glass containers for food and drink and flat glass for automotive and construction.

The American Natural Soda Ash Corporation (ANSAC) is responsible for soda ash shipment to many areas of the globe including Africa, the Caribbean and Asia. ANSAC has dedicated ocean terminals located in Oregon (Port Arthur) and Texas (Port Arthur). Export volume was reported as an increase of a million tonnes between 2000 and 2008 to 4 million tonnes.

Duqm Port has also reported good news with respect to raw materials for glass production. Near to the port's newest maritime gateway are a dozen types of industrial minerals which will be used for cargo volumes. Among the minerals is silica sand which can be used for manufacturing glass. Silica sand can be found in prodigious quantities in the nearby area, and this mineral can be used in future glass production.


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