The glass manufacturing sector encompasses long-standing craftsmanship and modern production processes which need fostering.
While the history of glass goes back to 3,000 BC, when the first true glass was made in Syria, Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt, it was the Ancient Greeks and Romans who developed the European glass manufacturing tradition. In Europe, Venice is the cradle of glass and these origins can be traced back to the times of the Roman Empire. Today 155 production sites across Europe maintain the quality and skill of glass manufacturing that has been carried through the generations.
European glass production has withstood the test of time and in order to prepare for the future of the industry, we need to keep looking ahead. In the past decade alone, we have made significant investments in upgrading glass plants to be more environmentally friendly, as well cutting our CO2 emissions by 70%. We have also managed to make the glass bottles of today 30% lighter than they were two decades ago, without sacrificing product preservation, recyclability or design. It is in this spirit of innovation that we will forge ahead in years to come.
Our industry contributes to reducing Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions. Between 2003 and 2012, we carried out investments of €610 million per year – mainly into the upgrade of our plants. We also pursue innovative ways of re-using the CO2 and heat produced to support regional projects. For example, our industry contributes to district heating projects where surplus heat from the factory is piped to a tank that stores 100MWh heat. Heat, supplied to homes lead to reduced prices for heating for hundreds of homes and thousands of tonnes of CO2 savings per year.
The glass container industry is a key driver of growth and economic prosperity in Europe, helping the continent stay competitive. In the past 25 years, production has increased by almost 40%, contributing up to €9.5 billion to EU GDP. Glass production creates and maintains 125,000 jobs across Europe. The 155 production sites, combined with their proximity to suppliers and clients, means local businesses benefit in particular. And we are making an average investment of €610 million every year to keep Europe at the top of the table when it comes to glass packaging.
The container glass sector is essential to maintaining and improving Europe’s trade balance, particularly since it contributes to the commercial success of several of Europe’s finest products, such as wine, and perfumery, at an international level. In 2012, products that rely primarily on glass for packaging represented a positive trade balance of more than €21 billion per year.
It’s not all about wine – Europe is a world leader when it comes to making high-end perfume and cosmetics containers in a cutting-edge design, with proven technical expertise in this area. And it just so happens that glass makes the perfect packaging for such items: with a natural barrier against bacteria and changes in temperature, no leaching of toxic chemicals, and no plastic layer inside the container which could adversely affect the contents. All of which is paramount to keeping Europe looking and smelling good.
Innovation in glass packaging provides solutions for healthcare products. The properties of glass mean that it is considered an integral part of the product itself, providing solutions that help ensure accurate dosing, dispensing and prescription compliance. The fact that glass contains no harmful chemicals which could migrate into the pharmaceuticals and is an impermeable barrier also makes it a smart choice. In short, glass is an ally in the quest for better health.