Aluminium recycling hits record rates in 2017

The overall recycling rate for aluminium beverage cans in the European Union, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland in 2017 rose 2.3% from 2016 (72.8%), to reach an all-time record 74.5% in 2017.

Almost 31 billion cans were recycled in the EU and EFTA countries in 2017, representing a total of more than 420,000 tons of aluminium and contributed to the European circular economy. All aluminium cans are equally recyclable, no matter the colour, design, format or size.

Recycling aluminium consumes 95% less energy and generates only 5% of the greenhouse gas emissions than producing it from raw materials. Can recycling therefore saves the annual equivalent of approximately 3 million tons of greehouse gas emissions – equivalent to the annual emissions of a mid-sized European town like Belfast, Malmö or Thessaloniki.

Can manufacturers (members of Metal Packaging Europe) and their aluminium suppliers are confident that the European can recycling rate will increase further in the coming decade, primarily through a combination of improved plastic and metal drink collection systems and incentive-based initiatives such as modern deposit return and voluntary take back (‘cash for cans’) schemes.

The industry says it is “ready” to invest in additional recycling capacities, providing other stakeholders, such as public and private waste management operators, are equally prepared to invest in additional and modern sorting facilities.

Leonie Knox-Peebles, CEO of Metal Packaging Europe, stated: “We believe that the new European calculation method will hardly impact the final recycling rates being achieved for aluminium beverage cans.”

Maarten Labberton, director packaging group at European Aluminium, added: “As we move towards our 100% recycling rate target, what matters most is the recycling yields; aluminium is well positioned for the future given its very low losses during recycling.”

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