Last week, the UK’s leading grocery chain Tesco became the first supermarket to start selling water in aluminium cans rather than plastic bottles. With an ever-increasing recycling rate across Europe, aluminium is a natural ally in reducing plastic waste while helping the European Union reach its environment and circular economy targets.
Environmentally conscious drinks brand CanO Water came up with an idea to sell natural spring water in a 330ml aluminium can – a highly recyclable alternative to single use plastic water bottles. After successfully securing a niche market with cult social media following, this innovative aluminium alternative to selling water in plastic and glass containers reached the shelves of the UK’s largest retailer. Amid a war on plastic waste, both producers and consumers are increasingly on the lookout for eco-friendly options. This creates an opportunity for aluminium to showcase its green credentials.
CanO Water co-founder Ariel Booker rightly points out that: “Aluminium cans have the highest recycling rate of any product out there and a recycled can could be back on the shelf as another one in just 60 days.” Aluminium recycling uses less energy than other materials making it the most effective metal to recycle. Moreover, recycling aluminium means using 95 per cent less energy than producing it from alumina. Since the metal can be recycled infinitely, 75% of all aluminium that has ever been produced is still being used somewhere.
Record recycling rates
The latest figures on European aluminium beverage can recycling could not be more encouraging – 72 per cent in 2017. The recycling rate up from 70 per cent in 2016 and could reach 85 per cent by 2020. The level is well above the future EU Circular Economy targets of 65 per cent for all aluminium packaging. Germany, Finland, Belgium and Norway are recycling nearly 100 per cent of aluminium beverage cans. All in all, with high scrap value of aluminium, more than 32 billion cans have been recycled in Europe. At the same time, successful awareness campaigns across the EU such as Every Can Counts are helping to convince European citizens to recycle aluminium cans not only at home but also at festivals and at the workplace.
Driving EU’s sustainable development
With some of the world’s highest environment standards, the European Union is determined to lead by example and promote more environmentally sustainable materials as part of its circular economy strategy. In this vein, EU’s proposal to ban single-use plastic products could be seen as only the beginning of a larger trend towards alternative packaging. As consumers are more environmentally astute than ever, drink producers are starting to think outside the plastic bottle when packaging their products. As Packaging Europe shows, it is not only drink wholesalers that start switching from plastic bottles, but also businesses, event organisers and tourist operators that ditch plastic for aluminium.
Aluminium offers convenient and eco-friendly beverage packaging alternative, which makes it a top choice for replacing plastic when both governments and consumers are more attentive to sustainable food shopping. It is only a matter of time before bigger brands like Nestle, Evian and Volvic start competing with pioneering brands like CanO Water to prove their commitment to sustainable development. This is when aluminium cans will replace plastic bottles on supermarket shelves. And not only plastic water bottles, but also glass wine bottles.