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Aluminum cans still most sustainable package according to report

Washington-based Aluminum Association and Can Manufacturers Institute released a new report that found Americans recycle cans twice as much as plastic bottles.

The average aluminum can manufactured in the United States constitutes about 73% recycled ingredient compared with 23% for glass bottles and less than 6% for plastic. According to the Washington-based Aluminum Association and the Can Manufacturers Institute (CMI), aluminum can scrap is more valuable than glass or plastic.

The duo has released an updated report, “The Aluminum Can Advantage: Sustainability Key Performance Indicators 2020,” which showcases the ongoing sustainability of the aluminum drink container in comparison with competing packaging types. In the report’s findings, consumers recycle aluminum cans at nearly two-fold the rate of plastic bottles. The CMI and Aluminum Association also released, “Every Can Counts: An Aluminum Beverage Can Recycling Manifesto,” a new document to highlight the importance of aluminum recycling and improve the recycling rate in the United States.

According to Tom Dobbins, president and CEO of the Aluminum Association, “The aluminum industry is steadfast on reintegrating as many used beverage containers as possible back into the manufacturing loop.” “We are extremely proud of our industry-leading sustainability metrics but importantly too, is to ascertain that every can counts. Unlike most recycling, a used aluminum beverage can is usually recycled directly into a new can – a process which can happen multiple times over.” 

On his part, Robert Budway, president of the CMI says “Each year, the aluminum can’s existing circular system recycles approximately 45 billion cans in the United States. Above 90% of these recycled cans are converted into aluminum sheet used to manufacture new beverage cans. In addition to other scrap metal, these used cans create an average recycled content rate of 73%, which is way higher than any competing substrate. Although the aluminum can’s recycling rate is significantly superior to other beverage containers, this is the moment for all of us to take to keep more aluminum cans out of landfills.”

Key findings in the 2020 report include:

  • The industry recycling rate for all aluminum used beverage cans (UBCs) by the U.S. industry (including exported and imported UBCs) was 55.9% in 2019, reducing 63.6% in 2018. According to the report, this reduction was primarily driven 2019 industry-wide production decline 
  • The consumer recycling rate for aluminum beverage cans dropped to 46.1% in 2019, lower than the 2018 rate of 49.8% but above the 2017 number of 45.1%. The two-decade average for the consumer recycling rate is around 50%.
  • By far, aluminum beverage can remains the most valuable package in the recycling bin, with a value per ton of $1,210 per ton compared with $237 per ton for plastic and a negative value of $21 per ton for glass, based on a two-year rolling average through February 2019.

Read the full report here.

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