The coronavirus has caused major upheaval in the U.S. recycling system as waste generation shifted from commercial to more residential sources and as recycling service and operations temporarily halted due to financial or safety issues. Some cities reduced or temporarily halted curbside service and some deposit system states stopped enforcing beverage container redemption at retailers or, in the case of Michigan, stopped redemption altogether. Deposit states charge a small fee, typically 5 or 10 cents, when someone purchases a beverage container, and they can get that fee back upon returning the container to a redemption center. These states are important for beverage can recycling since 40 percent of the cans that the can industry recycles come from the 10 U.S. states that have deposit systems. CMI was interviewed for a Detroit Free Press article and a National Public Radio segment on the importance of aluminum can recycling, particularly in the state of Michigan, which had temporarily stopped redemption of deposits.
The can industry wants as many cans as possible to be safely recycled so that it can continue to meet the unprecedented demand for the essential packaging it provides while continuing to provide cans with industry-leading levels of recycled content. At the onset of the pandemic in the United States, CMI issued a statement on the essential nature of the can industry. Learn more about how food, beverage and aerosol cans are essential here. Recycled cans provide important feedstock to make essential cans. The average U.S. aluminum beverage can has 73 percent recycled content and steel food cans have up to 35 percent recycled content with current technology. The can industry is trying to incorporate as many other kinds of scrap as possible to keep that recycled content number high, but it is more likely to stay at its high level if consumers remember to recycle their cans or hold on to them if it is not possible or convenient to currently redeem them in deposit states. The high levels of recycled content also translates into significant environmental impact and fuels the economic impact of the aluminum recycling industry.
As you can read about in this press release and as you can see in the graphic below, the entire beverage container industry encourages residents who cannot redeem their containers to hold onto them for later redemption. Given the significant environmental and economic impact from recycling cans, it is important your cans are recycled and you deserve to get your deposit back.