Aluminum Can Remains Most Sustainable Package on a Number of Key Performance Metrics
The Aluminum Association and the Can Manufacturers Institute (CMI) released an updated report — The Aluminum Can Advantage: Sustainability Key Performance Indicators 2020 — demonstrating the ongoing sustainability advantages of the aluminum beverage container compared to competing packaging types. The report finds that consumers recycle aluminum cans at nearly double the rate of plastic bottles.
Additionally, the average aluminum can made in the United States contains about 73 percent recycled content compared to 23 percent for glass bottles and less than 6 percent for plastic. In addition, aluminum can scrap is far more valuable than glass or plastic, making aluminum a key driver of the financial viability of the recycling system in the United States.
The full report is available at www.aluminum.org/CanAdvantage and a summary chart details the findings below:
In an effort to improve the aluminum can recycle rate in the United States, the Aluminum Association and CMI also released a new document Every Can Counts: An Aluminum Beverage Can Recycling Manifesto to underscore the critical importance of aluminum can recycling for the economy and the environment. The manifesto also lays out what the aluminum can production and recycling industry are doing to grow aluminum can recycling and capture every can.
“The aluminum industry is committed to bringing as many used beverage containers as possible back into the system,” said Tom Dobbins, president & CEO of the Aluminum Association. “We
are incredibly proud of our industry-leading sustainability metrics but also want to make sure that every can counts. Unlike most recycling, a used aluminum can is typically recycled directly into a new can – a process which can happen over and over again.”
“The aluminum beverage can’s existing circular system recycles approximately 45 billion cans each year in the United States,” said Robert Budway, president of the Can Manufacturers Institute. “More than 90 percent of these recycled cans get turned into aluminum sheet used to make new beverage cans. These used cans plus other scrap metal create an average recycled content rate of 73 percent, which is exponentially higher than any competing substrate. While the beverage can’s recycling rate is significantly better than other beverage containers, it is time for all of us to take action to keep more aluminum cans out of landfills.”
The updated study tracks multiple different sustainability “key performance indicators” for the aluminum beverage can including industry recycling rate, consumer recycling rate, recycled content and value of material. Taken together, these indicators provide a holistic view of the sustainability performance of the can as a guide for consumers, beverage company customers, non-governmental organizations, policymakers and other stakeholders across the value chain.
Key findings in the 2020 report include:
- The industry recycling rate, which includes the recycling of all aluminum used beverage containers (UBCs) by the U.S. industry (including imported and exported UBCs) was 55.9 percent in 2019, a decline from 63.6 percent in 2018. This change was driven largely by production shifts within the industry in 2019.
- The consumer recycling rate for aluminum beverage cans dropped to 46.1 percent in 2019, lower than the 2018 rate of 49.8 percent but above the 2017 number of 45.1 percent. The 20-year average for the consumer recycling rate is around 50 percent.
- The average recycled content of an aluminum can is 73 percent, far exceeding rival packaging types such as glass and plastic.
- The aluminum can remains by far the most valuable package in the recycling bin, with a value per ton of $1,210/ton compared to $237/ton for plastic and a negative value of $21/ton for glass, based on a two-year rolling average through February 2019.
As noted in the Every Can Counts manifesto, “Aluminum beverage can recycling is vital to the nation’s recycling system and overall economy. Since metal recycles forever, aluminum cans are already the most recycled beverage container in the United States and the world with nearly 5 million beverage cans recycled every hour in the United States.” The document continues, “And yet, recycling rates in the United States have been in decline in recent years. The industry continues to use as much recycled material as possible – with an industry leading 73 percent recycled content in the average aluminum can. But too much infinitely recyclable aluminum is going to landfill – at major economic and environmental cost.”
The manifesto details a comprehensive industry approach to increase aluminum can recycling including actions on Research & Data; Industry & Consumer Education; Policy; and Stakeholder Engagement.
For more information and to view the full report and manifesto, please visit www.aluminum.org/CanAdvantage.
About The Aluminum Association
The Aluminum Association represents aluminum production and jobs in the United States, ranging from primary production to value added products to recycling, as well as suppliers to the industry. The association is the industry’s leading voice, representing companies that make 70 percent of the aluminum and aluminum products shipped in North America. The association develops global standards, business intelligence, sustainability research and industry expertise for member companies, policymakers and the general public. The aluminum industry helps manufacturers produce sustainable and innovative products, including more fuel-efficient vehicles, recyclable packaging, greener buildings and modern electronics. In the U.S., the aluminum industry supports $172 billion in economic activity and nearly 660,000 jobs. For more information visit http://www.aluminum.org, on Twitter @AluminumNews or at Facebook.com/AluminumAssociation.
About The Can Manufacturers Institute
The Can Manufacturers Institute (CMI) is the national trade association of the metal can manufacturing industry and its suppliers in the United States. The can industry accounts for the annual domestic production of approximately 119 billion food, beverage and general line cans; employs more than 28,000 people with plants in 33 states, Puerto Rico and American Samoa; and generates about $17.8 billion in direct economic activity. CMI members are committed to providing safe, nutritious and refreshing canned food and beverages to consumers in the most sustainable packaging.