Aluminium can recycling could hit 85 per cent by 2020

Aluminium recycling could hit 85% by 2020A recent report commissioned by Alupro – an industry funded, not-for-profit organisation representing the UK’s aluminium packaging industry – shows how an 85 per cent recycling rate for aluminium cans will be achieved by 2020. 

Following the publication of the National Audit Office’s review of the packaging recycling system, which reported that packaging recycling rates could be overestimated due to flaws in the monitoring of the system, there has been public concern about what exactly is happening to the packaging that householders recycle.

Alupro’s new report, produced by environmental consultancy Resource Futures and titled ‘Achieving an 85 per cent recycling rate within two years’, calls for action in several areas to strengthen matters in the aluminium recycling industry, including a greater consistency of local authority kerbside collections and the reform of the packaging producer responsibility system.

However, the report also demonstrates the strengths of the aluminium packaging industry. Data illustrates that there is sufficient capacity within the EU to recycle the UK’s aluminium packaging waste, with 92 per cent of the aluminium packaging collected for recycling in the UK currently recycled within Europe.

Alupro describes recycling aluminium as making both environmental and commercial sense, as the material is endlessly recyclable, with no loss of quality – the International Aluminium Institute states that 75 per cent of all aluminium ever produced is still in productive use.

The study shows that the recycling rate for aluminium drink cans continues to increase annually, hitting 72 per cent in 2017, up from 70 per cent in 2016, whilst the national recycling rate for all aluminium packaging reached 51 per cent, up from 50 per cent in 2016.

To drive packaging recycling rates higher, Alupro recommends the following actions:

  • Investment in communications to ensure that the wider public has a greater understanding of recycling processes and the reasons behind them;
  • Ensuring consistency of local authority kerbside collections to be certain that aluminium packaging such as aerosols, cans and foil continue to be collected;
  • Investment in effective on-the-go infrastructure that increases quality recycling and reduces littering;
  • Continuing to develop separation technology, so that material quality is improved and ultimately aluminium packaging recovered from incinerator bottom ash (IBA) can be used to make new packaging; and
  • Reform of the packaging producer responsibility system.

Aluminium packaging recycling could hit 85% by 2020Andy Doran, Sustainability Manager at aluminium company Novelis, commented: “Sustainability is core to Novelis’ business. As the world’s largest recycler of aluminum, we have made a strong commitment to the UK market by establishing enough recycling capacity to recycle every can placed on the market. By doing this we are leveraging aluminum’s unique properties to meet the needs of our customers and help them deliver sustainable solutions.”

Alupro’s Executive Director, Rick Hindley, said: “Approximately 94,000 tonnes of aluminium packaging was recycled last year, generating an estimated £75-million income for councils and waste reprocessors. Aluminium represents less than one per cent of the household waste stream yet contributes around 25 per cent of the value derived from the sale of recyclables by local authorities and their collection partners.

“We strongly believe that detailed research, including full impact assessments, must be carried out into all the options which could deliver increased recycling, together with the required funding, to deliver the 25 Year Environment Plan and Circular Economy Package.”

Alupro’s report, ‘Achieving an 85 per cent recycling rate within two years’ can be read in full at online publishing site Issuu.

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