Study Finds Aluminum Cans the Sustainable Package of Choice
Most Recycled, Highest Value Beverage Container on the Market
ARLINGTON, VA. (May 20, 2015) – Aluminum cans are the most recycled and highest value beverage container on the market today, according to a new report released by the Aluminum Association and Can Manufacturers Institute (CMI), and available at www.aluminum.org/CanAdvantage.com. The aluminum can has the highest recycling rate of any beverage container and contains 70 percent recycled content on average – more than three times the recycled content of glass or plastic (PET) bottles. The study also found that aluminum can recycled material is worth nearly 300 percent more per ton than plastic or glass.
“This new report confirms that aluminum cans are recycled by U.S. consumers at rates more than 20 points higher than that of other beverage containers, making them the sustainable package of choice,” said Heidi Brock, President and CEO of the Aluminum Association. “Cans are recycled at the highest rates, and drive recycling programs across the country because of the high value of aluminum compared to other packaging materials.”
The report is being released in the lead-up to Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial launch of summer –as consumers appreciate the lightweight, unbreakable and portability of canned beverages as they travel to beaches, outdoor concerts and sporting events.
“The continued success of aluminum can recycling is a testament to our industry’s commitment to environmental stewardship,” said Robert Budway, President of the Can Manufacturers Institute. “Americans know when they are tasting a refreshing canned beverage that they are purchasing America's most recycled beverage package.”
The new report, “The Aluminum Can Advantage: Key Sustainability Indicators 2015”, provides a holistic approach to sustainability tracking of the aluminum can and will be a useful guide for consumers, non-governmental organizations, policymakers and other stakeholders across the value chain. The Aluminum Association plans to release a new “key performance indicator” report each year with updated data to track progress over time. Key findings in the report include:
- The aluminum industry recycling rate, which measures the amount of used aluminum can scrap, including imported and exported cans, that get recycled as a percentage of U.S. shipments was essentially flat in 2014 at 66.5 percent. This reflects more than 59 million cans recycled and marks the fourth year in a row the rate has held near historically high levels.
- The consumer recycling rate for aluminum cans, which measures domestic consumer recycling behavior, was up nearly 2 points to 56.7 percent in 2014, the highest rate reported since 1997 and a more than 12-point improvement since earlier in the decade. This compares to consumer recycling rates in the low-to-mid 30s for glass and plastic bottles.
- Aluminum cans contain more than 3X the recycled content of glass or plastic, with 70 percent recycled content on average. This compares to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated 23 percent recycled content for glass and 3 percent recycled content for plastic bottles.
- The study shows aluminum can scrap is worth $1,491 per ton versus $385 per ton for plastic and $0 per ton for glass. The high value of material for aluminum helps make municipal recycling programs financially viable and effectively subsidizes the recycling of less valuable materials in the bin.
Additionally, aluminum cans have reduced their weight by 38 percent since 1972, down to 12.99 grams on average. Aluminum cans are more than 15 times lighter than standard 12 oz. glass bottles, allowing brands to package and transport more beverages using less material.
Over the past six years, the industry recycling rate has risen more than 12 points to 66.5 percent – and has held at this historically high level since 2012.
In 2008, the Aluminum Association announced a targeted industry recycling goal of 75 percent by 2015. At the time of the announcement, the industry rate was 54.1 percent following a decade of declining recycling. The rising rate is due to a combination of an increase in domestic consumer recycling and of increased industry recycling of imported can scrap. Domestic consumer recycling is also up nearly 9 points since 2008 to 56.7 percent, jumping nearly two percentage points last year alone.
“We’re proud of the progress that has been made in strengthening our position as the most recycled and highest recycled content container on the market today,” said Heidi Brock. “Our ultimate goal is to do even better -- collect as many cans as possible and get them back into the recycling loop. Doing that is an economic and environmental win for everyone.”
Each year in the United States nearly 40 billion cans – $800 million worth of aluminum – end up landfills. The energy saved by recycling 100 percent of aluminum cans in the U.S. could power 4 million homes for a full year. Making a can from recycled aluminum saves 92 percent of the energy required to make a new can.
Aluminum Recycling in the United States
Recovery and recycling across the aluminum industry are on the rise. The industry today collects about 11.5 billion pounds of aluminum each year for recycling – more than twice the amount of aluminum collected in the 1980s and nearly 20 percent more than averages in the early 2000s. At the same time, more than 70 percent of U.S. aluminum production today is in producing secondary, or recycled, metal.
To view the full report on the aluminum can’s sustainability performance, please visit www.aluminum.org/CanAdvantage.
About the Aluminum Association The Aluminum Association represents U.S. and foreign-based companies and their suppliers throughout the value chain, from primary production to value added products to recycling. The Association is the industry’s leading voice, providing global standards, business intelligence, sustainability research and industry expertise to 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 creates $152 billion in economic activity. For more information visit www.Aluminum.org, on Twitter @AluminumNews or at Facebook.com/AluminumAssociation.
About the Can Manufacturers Institute Can Manufacturers Institute (CMI) 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 124 billion food, beverage and other metal cans; which 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. Our members are committed to providing safe, nutritious and refreshing canned food and beverages to consumers.
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