Resource Use

‘Real’ aluminium recycling rate revealed

Recent research into the amount of aluminium packaging reprocessed or exported by the UK in 2015 has revealed that the ‘real’ value is approximately 10,000 tonnes more than the official figure released by the Environment Agency (EA).

The EA’s packaging waste recovery data states that 76,027 tonnes of aluminium packaging was recycled by UK businesses in 2015, which exceeded the target of 49 per cent, or 74,190 tonnes, for that year.

A study commissioned by the Aluminium Packaging Recycling Organisation (Alupro), however, has revealed that 10,000 tonnes of material were recycled but not reported by the usual packaging recycling note (PRN) system.

'Real' aluminium recycling rate revealed

The ‘real’ amount of aluminium packaging recycled, according to Alupro, was 86,200 tonnes, which means in 2015 the recycling rate was 55 per cent.

Alupro study

Producers of packaging waste are required to purchase a number of PRNs each year to comply with producer responsibility regulations. These documents act as evidence that waste material has been recycled and an incentive for manufacturers and handlers to recycle.

The Alupro study, which was undertaken by environmental consultancy Resource Futures, determined that at least 10,000 tonnes of used aluminium packaging did not go through the PRN system in 2015.

The methodology used was based on that outlined in the EU’s Circular Economy Package, which removes the weight of aluminium used in packaging from the total amount of aluminium on the market.

The official recycling rate for aluminium in the UK is currently 55 per cent, and 69 per cent of aluminium drinks cans are recycled, according to Alupro but the study suggests it could be even higher.

“Delivering lasting and positive behaviour change”

Executive Director of Alupro, Rick Hindley, commented: “Our research clearly demonstrates the need to encourage more reprocessors to become accredited to ensure that the PRN system provides an accurate record of recycling performance. It sets a clear benchmark for our sector and we will use our findings to focus on what needs to be done to meet the ambitious new material recovery targets proposed under the EU Circular Economy Package. It is also vital that the measurement system we use in the UK for calculating recycling performance is aligned to the methodology used throughout Europe.”

“Meeting ambitious EU recycling targets and making the circular economy a reality is the responsibility of the entire supply chain, and will require long-term commitment and involvement throughout the materials sector. Programmes like MetalMatters and Every Can Counts are helping to educate consumers and make recycling part of everyday life, and will continue to be key elements in our industry’s ‘roadmap’ to 2025. Our successes to date show that partnerships work and Alupro programmes are making a major contribution to delivering lasting and positive behaviour change, and increasing the recycling rate of aluminium packaging. ”

More information about why Alupro commissioned the research is available in Resource’s article.