Warnings over government ambition as aluminium can recycling hits 70 per cent

The UK’s aluminium can recycling rate hit 70 per cent in 2016, according to the Aluminium Packaging Recycling Organisation (Alupro), though the group has warned that a lack of government ambition could compromise future performance.

Warnings over government ambition as aluminium can recycling hits 70 per cent
Around 180,000 tonnes of aluminium packaging were placed on the market during the year, of which Alupro, a trade association representing aluminium packaging producers, fillers and reprocessors, says ‘beverage cans make up by far the largest sector’.

In fact, the UK has the largest beverage can market in Europe, and Alupro says that by hitting the 70 per cent landmark it is contributing greatly to the European metal packaging sector’s ambition to reach an average 80 per cent metal packaging recycling rate by 2025.

Aluminium makes up the majority of drinks cans placed on the market nowadays, and provides an endless recycling loop, with the metal able to be recycled again and again without any loss of quality. In fact, used aluminium drink cans can be recycled and back on supermarket shelves as new drink cans in as little as 60 days.

Commenting on the recycling rate milestone Alupro Executive Director Rick Hindley said: “We are obviously very pleased that aluminium packaging recycling rates continue to increase year on year and it’s particularly nice to reach a new 70 per cent ‘milestone’ for beverage cans. The continued growth is due to the support of our members and partners in the wider industry and their commitment to invest in and support our programmes to drive positive, lasting behaviour change among consumers.”’

‘Lack of ambition’ could compromise future aluminium growth

Despite the growing recycling rate, however, Alupro has warned that future growth could be impeded by a ‘lack of ambition’ from the government when setting new targets for aluminium.

In March, the government confirmed new individual targets for paper, aluminium, steel and wood packaging up to 2020 following consultation with stakeholders. Aluminium, which has a 55 per cent target for 2017, was set targets of 58 per cent in 2018, 61 per cent in 2019 and 64 per cent in 2020.

In its response to the consultation, Alupro proposed an increase to the 2017 aluminium target and that in subsequent years the targets are ‘front-loaded’ to maintain momentum in the aluminium sector. It says it was ‘frustrated’ when its argument for an increase to the 2017 target was ignored.

Research conducted by the organisation last year revealed that over 10,000 tonnes of metal went unreported in 2015, and that were this material included in the Environment Agency’s official figures the aluminium recycling rate would have been 55 per cent. Instead it was recorded at 49 per cent.

Because of the disparity in figures, Alupro has also argued for reform to the packaging recovery note (PRN) system, including the mandatory registration of reprocessors and exporters to ensure that all material collected for recycling is reported through the issuing of Packaging Recovery Notes.  

Hindley added: “We remain convinced that future growth in aluminium recycling performance is achievable within the current system, subject to a few revisions which will ensure all recycling is accurately reported and that behaviour change programmes are properly funded on a fair and equitable basis.

“Alupro believes that communication is the missing link between the collection infrastructure and recycling growth, as has been proved over and again by industry-funded programmes like MetalMatters and Every Can Counts. Our focus remains to make people aware of the aluminium in the packaging they use every day and how to recycle it so that the metal can be given a new life, over and over again.”

The MetalMatters programme, which sees industry-funded communications being delivered in partnership with local authorities launched a new campaign in South Northamptonshire last week to demonstrate the importance of recycling more of the 45 million metal packaging items used in South Northamptonshire every year.

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