After obtaining a degree in chemical engineering, Matthew Demmon got his first job in glass at Rockware Glass in Knottingley in 1988 (now part of the Ardagh Group). Two years as a Graduate Trainee on a project to build a new batch plant and furnace led to promotion to Furnace Engineer before he moved on to Rockware’s Irvine plant as Batch and Furnace Manager. “I’ve been a batch and furnace man ever since!” declares Mr Demmon.
In 1996 he went to work for Dema Glass, initially as Batch and Furnace Manager before progressing to a group role overseeing activities at the Chesterfield plant that made drinking glasses.
In 2000 he joined Guardian Glass, where, as Hot End Superintendent, he had “a lot of influence” on the design of the furnace at the new flat glass factory in Goole. “When I drive past the plant now, I still think of it as ‘my furnace’” confides Mr Demmon.
The next challenge was to work for Quinn Glass (now Encirc) in 2005 as Batch and Furnace Manager at its new factory in Cheshire. “In my short time there I got to oversee the construction of the second furnace which was very similar to Guardian’s in Goole, tweaked for container glass instead of flat glass of course” recounts Mr Demmon.
In 2006 he joined UK glass recycling company Recresco as Area Manager, working on building and operating a new recycling plant and three years later took this know-how to Viridor where “we had the chance to build a new factory in Sheffield that focused purely on recycling glass” says Mr Demmon. His first commercial role, as Viridor’s Trading Sales Manager (Glass), eventually led Mr Demmon to set up his own company, MKD32 Ltd in 2013, where he is Managing Director.
A UK-based glass merchant and consultancy, MKD32 works with Scottish manufacturers to procure waste glass, predominantly containers, for export to European glass recyclers. “I now have five sites in Scotland where we store glass” elaborates Mr Demmon. “We have the Rosyth Dock which goes to the Netherlands, Leith, Ayr and Clydebank which go to Portugal and we have space in Glasgow where we take glass from pubs, clubs and restaurants. We also do a little of flat glass, but flat glass recycling needs to evolve and it’s a difficult one – we need to follow examples like recycling for electrical equipment where we pay upfront for recycling when we buy something, it goes into the system and gets recycled properly.”
Quizzed on the current status of glass recycling in his sectors, Mr Demmon believes that it is going “reasonably well”, noting that “We consistently hit the targets that are set for us within the British Producer Responsibility regime but there’s a lot to do to achieve the industry ambitions for this decade”.
As glass representative of the Advisory Committee on Packaging, Mr Demmon works with other industry experts with a specific interest in packaging and packaging waste to advise and make recommendations to the government to assist with its policy development on packaging reuse, recovery and recycling.
“What we are trying to do is to move those targets up faster so that by 2030 we hit 90% collection from recycling” he explains. “I do believe that is credible. And when we hit that target, we need a remelt-to-market target, otherwise it might get collected but might not end up being recycled properly – that is a real risk because the scheme administrator may look for the cheapest way to deal with the glass rather than the most environmentally appropriate way… so we need a remelt target and an increasing and evolving target to go alongside the recycling and collection targets.”
On 18 March British Glass spoke in front of a parliamentary committee to raise concerns that the inclusion of glass beverage packaging in the government’s proposed Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) would lead to an increase in plastic packaging and limit the sector’s ability to recycle glass back into bottles and jars.
Mr Demmon is similarly minded that glass does not require a separate DRS; “Proper Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) with consistent collections, good messaging and high targets will bring the desired results” he maintains. “But if we have a DRS it should be a digital scheme as that offers so many more advantages moving forward. For example, there can be so much learned from having a QR code on the container and there are trials taking place in Northern Ireland and Wales… but England is behind and new laws need to be introduced.”
Different consumption patterns precipitated by the Covid-19 pandemic have had a knock-on effect on recycling, observes Mr Demmon. “We’ve seen tremendous levels of recycling because in my view the kerbside system works and when people are at home – they use it. So we have loads of materials including glass coming through the recycling system and I do have concerns that when we return to normal there will be a lot more waste lost from the recycling system… I suspect that this period has been a really good advert for EPR and consistent collections. It’s been an interesting time but we probably won’t get a real feel for the numbers until the autumn.”
At the start of 2021 Mr Demmon became President of British Glass – the result of a unanimous vote at the company’s Annual General Meeting. “I am really surprised and proud to have been asked [to be President]” he says, modestly; “and I will do my best to make the most of it. This is a great industry that I have loved working in and I am very proud to now be the President of the sector’s trade body in Britain.”
Mr Demmon has substantial history with the representative body for the UK glass industry, having been involved with British Glass since the late 1990s and joining its board shortly after setting up MKD32 in 2013. “I felt I fitted the profile because I represent a different sort of company to most of the board” he explains. “It’s good to have a set of people with different skills so it’s more like an industry council. With my unique career progression in the hollow glass, flat glass, specialty glass, recycling, commercial and operational areas, I can easily take off my current company hat and am now in position to provide greater influence.”
With a key objective to promote the glass industry for the greater good, the trade association is still “really relevant” stresses Mr Demmon. “It is enormously helpful to have a central body” he opines. “In fact, us leading in the foundation sector is a good demonstration of the benefit of having a trade association."
“We also need to continue to promote glass as the great sector it is” he continues. “It’s so diverse and leading edge in many ways that is a real example to other industries.”
The UK still represents a cost-effective manufacturing hub for glass production in the long-term, believes Mr Demmon, particularly given that glass is a product that “doesn’t travel very far and containers and flat glass really need to be made local to their own market.”
Brexit has given the association “new focus on trade that hasn’t really been a high profile issue before” he asserts, “So we are working with governments for the latest updates and can also feed back industry concern.”
A respected association with the ear of important governmental bodies, British Glass is well-placed to communicate the glass sector’s values and interests, whether that be in Parliament or on a more low-key platform. “In the past, there seemed to be a struggle with the various government departments understanding our point of view, but Dave Dalton, British Glass CEO, has done an excellent job in increasing British Glass’ profile over the years and has turned it around so that there is much more positive dialogue” says Mr Demmon.
British Glass’s annual Glass Focus conference and awards ceremony that celebrates outstanding achievement in the glass sector is a notable example of positive PR. “With the event having to go virtual in 2020, it attracted the most international interest ever and has grown even more in importance”
Mr Demmon reports.
A primary focus of his tenure as British Glass President will be to attract new members from the supply chain. “Glass manufacturers are well represented but members from the supply chain could be even better represented in our membership and that will be a priority during my presidency” he states. “There are many benefits [to being a member] but you only get out what you put in. My message to members is to get involved and you will get a lot back. We are looking at ways to get more members involved and to increase the value even more.”
Worshipful Company of Glass Sellers
In 2014 Mr Demmon became a liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Glass Sellers of London.
“Dave Dalton is a liveryman and introduced me to the company” recounts Mr Demmon. “I took my Freedom of the City of London in 2014 and after becoming a liveryman, progressed quite quickly to a Court Assistant. I have found being part of Glass Sellers to be very rewarding.”
Mr Demmon now serves on the Glass Committee, chaired by Marketing and Business Consultant Maria Chanmugam and linking to the industrial glass sector, describing it as being “a real mover in recent times”.
It is beneficial to UK glass manufacturing to have representatives from the sector in the livery company, believes Mr Demmon. “In addition to Dave Dalton, other industry stalwarts such as Richard Katz, Barbara Beadman, John Clark, David Wilkinson, Paul McLavin, Stephen Pollock-Hill, Dave Fordham and Frazer Campbell are active liverymen” he notes. “And of course, The Worshipful Company of Glass Sellers is a partner of Glass Futures and Glass Worldwide too and with such strong links to the city we will be a firm supporter of the proposed United Nations International Year of Glass 2022” – a project organised by The International Commission on Glass, the Community of Glass Associations and ICOM-Glass to underline the technological, scientific and economic importance of glass.
The Company is also a supporter of British Glass’s Glass Focus annual awards and is “always looking to strengthen such cooperation” adds Mr Demmon. “Glass Sellers needs to continue in this direction of becoming more and more relevant” he concludes.
IMAGE: Steve Severs, Managing Director of Saint-Gobain Glass Industry UK and immediate past president of British Glass with current president Matthew Demmon at the Court and Livery Dinner of the Worshipful Company of Glass Sellers of London at Grocers Hall, London in September 2019.