Recycling of aluminium beverage cans at high level

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The increased consumption of aluminium beverage cans in 2019 led to record number of 36.5 bn cans recycled, or 488,000 t of aluminium.

A new report by Metal Packaging Europe and European Aluminium shows that the overall recycling rate for aluminium beverage cans in the European Union, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland remained stable in 2019 at 76 %. With a growing can consumption, the total amount of aluminium recycled from cans reached a record level of 488,000 t and represents a total Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions saving of 4 m t of CO₂ (equivalent to the amount of GHG emissions produced by a European town of 440,000 inhabitants like Bratislava, Tallinn or Murcia.

Recycling rate of aluminium beverage cans to increase further

Can manufacturers (members of Metal Packaging Europe) and their aluminium suppliers (members of European Aluminium) welcomed the new result but say that with some extra effort, the recycling rates could go even higher. In March 2021, the two industry associations launched their joint Roadmap towards 100 % can recycling by the year 2030. This ambitious target can only be reached if existing packaging collection systems in Europe are further improved or replaced by well-designed deposit return systems for beverage cans and other relevant beverage containers.

The increased consumption of aluminium beverage cans in 2019 led to record number of 36.5 bn cans recycled, or 488,000 t of aluminium. Photo: European Aluminium / Metal Packaging Europe

Ambitious target: 100 % can recycling by the year 2030

“With an increasing demand for fully circular packaging systems, the aluminium beverage can, which is made from an endlessly recyclable material, is the ideal alternative to less sustainable packaging options,” said Léonie Knox-Peebles, CEO of Metal Packaging Europe. “We now need to work together to make sure that even more used cans are correctly disposed of and recycled so that we reach our ambitious 2030 goal. We are confident that the credentials highlighted in our Metal Recycles Forever logo will incite consumers to do just that.”

“We would like to see more countries moving towards modern and well-designed deposit return systems, allowing for an optimal use of the high scrap value and quality of the collected aluminium cans,” Maarten Labberton, Director Packaging Group at European Aluminium, stressed. “Although used cans are also recycled into a wide range of other valuable end-use products like bikes or electric vehicles, the most efficient solution is to use them again for the production of new cans. No other type of beverage packaging can reach such high recycling rates whilst using so little primary material, resulting in product circularity as well as carbon emissions reductions.”

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