Big British bottle bank birthday

LONDON (Reuters) - It was 30 years ago today -- that Stanley Race made history by dropping an empty jar into Britain’s first glass bottle bank.

Race, then president of the Glass Manufacturing Federation, deposited his jar at a car park in Barnsley, paving the way for 23 billion jars and bottles to be recycled over the next 30 years.

On Wednesday, the 90-year-old will return to the original site in South Yorkshire with fellow recycling campaigner Ron England, 64, who created the first of Britain’s 50,000 bottle banks.

“We wanted to save the planet and have carried the flag for recycling ever since,” England told Reuters. “They key principle has stayed the same -- save energy and resources by recycling waste from the general public.”

About 752,000 tonnes of glass are recycled now every year to make new bottles and jars.

But while more household waste than ever is recycled, Britain is still regarded as the “dirty man of Europe” when it comes to sorting its rubbish.

On average every person in Britain throws away their own body weight in waste every 7 weeks, according to Waste Watch, an organisation promoting recycling.

The proportion of household waste recycled stands at 27 percent, according to government statistics, compared to 60 percent in Switzerland and 57 percent in Germany.

Much of that comes from packaging -- five million tonnes of packaging is dumped annually -- a problem the government vowed to tackle through tighter legislation when it launched its waste strategy 2007 last month.

“The legislation here is not as strong as it could be and we need more packaging that can be recycled rather than end up in landfill sites,” said England.

Local Government Association Chairman Sandy Bruce-Lockhart said councils, which are responsible for collecting household waste, had argued for an “urgent and radical overhaul” of rubbish generation and disposal.