federation of aluminium consumers in europe

Aluminium Can Still Most Sustainable Beverage Packaging Option


Aluminium cans maintain their position as the most sustainable beverage packaging according to a newly released report by the U.S.-based Aluminum Association and the Can Manufacturers Institute (CMI). The report also claims that aluminium subsidises the recycling of less valuable material such as glass and plastic.


The new study – “The Aluminium Can Advantage: Key Sustainability Performance indicators 2019” – compares aluminium with glass and plastic on several measures of environmental performance, including industry recycling rate, consumer recycling rate, recycled content, and value of material. The 2019 findings reveal stable industry recycling rates and higher consumer recycling rate – jumping nearly 5 per cent year-on-year.


At the same time, American consumers recycled aluminium cans at nearly double the rate of glass or plastic bottles and that average recycled content for an aluminium can produced in the United States rose from 70 to 73 per cent, compared to 23 per cent for glass and 3 per cent for plastic.


The aluminium can also maintained its position as the most valuable package in the recycling bin – its value per tonne was $1,317/ton compared to $299/ton for plastic and a negative value of $20/ton for glass. According to the report, this difference in value means that aluminium is subsidising other materials in the recycling stream and is in fact the only drinks container type that generates a net profit for municipal recycling programmes around the world.


“For every 5 per cent increase in consumer recycling [of aluminium], approximately $100 million in aluminium value is saved from landfills,” said Robert Budway – President & CEO of CMI. “It is no exaggeration to say that the modern recycling system could not work economically without the contributions of aluminium.”


In the European Union, aluminium beverage can recycling rate reached 74 per cent according to the latest report by European Aluminium. Several EU states such as Germany, Finland and Belgium recycle nearly 100 per cent of their aluminium cans while recycling efforts are weaker in Southern Europe with Portugal and Greece recycling just around 30 per cent of used aluminium cans.


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