Waitrose & Partners Weekend Issue 584

3 0 13 J ANUARY 202 2 WEEKENDING Trying to imagine a world without glass is like trying to imagine one without wood or metal. In theory we could exist without it but somany things would become impossible. From the soaring windows of Westminster Abbey, to the chandeliers at Versailles, to the phials which contained the Covid-19 vaccines, glass – essentiallymade from super-heated sand, soda or other substances – is one of themost important and underappreciatedmaterials on the planet. The word ubiquitous barely covers it. You’ll find glass onNasa’sMars 2020 Rover, currently surveying the Red Planet, and a formof it was used for heat-resistant tiles on the Space Shuttle. Glass beads are used in reflective roadmarking paint, tomake it easier to see at night; it’s used for sound absorption, touch screens and in everything from telecoms and barcode scanners to laser cutting. Glass fibre has been used in wind turbine blades and it may even be inside your own body – bioactive glass on joint implants can improve their integration with living tissue. Glass can be used to manufacture items as vast as the 20-ton, five-metre diameter Pyrex disc created for the Hale telescope in Pasadena, California, or tubing the width of a human hair, used in somemedical applications. No wonder, then, that the United Nations has decided it’s time we all started celebrating this wonder-material and declared 2022 the Year of Glass. Along with flagging up its many technical applications, the UNwants the next 12 months to underline glass’s green credentials as amaterial that can be recycled infinitely. It wants to encourage the exchange of best practices and create partnerships to support developing countries in achieving sustainability in the glass industry. To celebrate, the UNwill hold a two-day event in early February at the Palace of Nations in Geneva, to o cially launch the Year of Glass. According to David Dalton, CEO of the industry representative body, British Glass, this appreciation is long overdue. “The trouble is, we look through glass not at it,” he says. “Whether it’s your spectacles, the window in your o ce or automotive glazing in your car, we’re always looking through glass, not always seeing it.” His organisation represents Britain’s world-leading hi-tech glass manufacturers, as well as those directly involved in the glass supply chain. It also encompasses the work of companies such as Dartington Glass andWaterford Crystal, household names which produce ornamental and other glass for domestic use. As a substance, glass has been around for millennia and has recently been discovered onMars. “Forms of glass have been created by volcanic methods or lightning strikes on sand, and we know some ancient peoples turned this found glass into tools, because it was hard and could be made into something sharp,” David says. According to the Roman historian, Pliny the Elder, the Phoenicians discovered glass by accident, around 5,000 BC. Other claims are that it emerged around 4,000 years ago in Mesopotamia or that around 1,500 BC the Egyptians started its manufacture. Looking into the future, David believes glass could play a strong part in helping the planet achieve its zero carbon ambitions. Alongside its use in wind turbines and solar panels, the next generations of transparent solar glass could help reduce our need for energy as it will have solar panels built into it. He cites The Crystal building in London’s Royal Docks as the perfect example of glass’s abilities to tackle energy usage. “The triple glazing allows in 70%of the light needed but only 30%of the solar energy so it doesn’t overheat,” David explains. “Solar panels It’s mentioned in the Bible and has been around for thousands of years, but is arguably one of the planet’s most overlooked materials. That may soon change as the United Nations has declared 2022 the Year of Glass. Faith Eckersall charts its beauty and importance ‘It’s a completely renewable material and can go on being remade forever’ glass Magnifying FINDING GOOD USE Chichester Cathedral’s famous stained glass window designed by Marc Chagall (top); a full scale model of Nasa’s Mars 2020 Rover (above); The V&A’s Rotunda Chandelier (right)