UK aluminium packaging recycling rate hits new heights in rapidly-growing market

The UK’s aluminium packaging recycling rate has risen to 56%, its highest ever level, increasing year-on-year by 4% (from 52% in 2018). That’s the findings of the latest Environment Agency data, published on the National Packaging Waste Database (NPWD) earlier this month.

The aluminium packaging market grew by 8% (year-on-year), with 207,000 tonnes of aluminium packaging sold in the UK during 2019. A record 116,670 tonnes were recycled, including an estimated 76% of all aluminium beverage cans sold.

More than 102,944 tonnes of the collected  aluminium packaging (88%) was recycled into new high quality products within Europe. The business recycling rate once again surpassed targets, reaching 63% (compared to 60% in 2018), while consumer-collected aluminium packaging recycling also rocketed by 20% year-on-year (from 74,595 in 2018 to 89,543 in 2019).

Alongside greater public awareness about the widespread benefits of recycling, delivered through initiatives such as MetalMatters and Every Can Counts, the positive increase can be partly attributed to the aluminium sector’s continued investment into ensuring that the packaging it produces is recycled. The volume of aluminium packaging recovered from incinerator bottom ash (IBA) also increased, as a result of increasing volume of household residual waste  being diverted to energy from waste plants (EfW) rather than going to landfill.

Rick Hindley, executive director at Alupro, commented: “The continuing increase in recycling rates is all the more significant given the substantial increase in sales of aluminium packaging. Aluminium recycling is a true circular success story. Infinitely recyclable, reformed endlessly and retaining its properties indefinitely, nearly 75% of all aluminium ever produced worldwide is still in use today. Within 60 days, the aluminium packaging that consumers recycle could be back on supermarket shelves – a hugely powerful message that really seems to resonate.

“Since 2010, the UK’s aluminium packaging recycling rate has increased by 15% (from 41% in 2010 to 56% in 2019). This demonstrates the desire of British consumers to step up and do their bit for the environment. Our goal is to achieve an aluminium packaging recycling rate close to 100% across the UK – maintaining such impressive progress is essential to make this a reality.”



Statement on Scotland’s proposed deposit return scheme

Earlier today (29 April), the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee voted through Scotland’s proposed introduction of a national deposit return scheme (DRS). The regulations will now be subject to a vote in the Scottish Parliament, after which the scheme will become law.

In comment, Rick Hindley, executive director at Alupro, said: “While we are obviously disappointed that the scheme has been voted through in its current format, we were hugely encouraged by the clear concerns raised again by the Committee regarding the adverse impact of rolling-out a flat 20p deposit fee.

“We believe that the Scottish Government has buried its head in the sand with the proposed DRS, by failing to consider the valuable views of its constituents, its own Environment Committee and the packaging industry as a whole. With the real threat of unintended environmental and economic consequences, which could undermine the benefits of a well-designed scheme, the idea of a flat deposit fee is short sighted at best.

“It was, however, reassuring to hear the Cabinet Secretary’s acknowledgement of our concerns, as well as how the variable deposit could form part of a full review. Furthermore, the understanding that a variable deposit could be introduced via a negative statutory instrument was yet another positive take-out.

“A well-designed DRS could prove fundamental in tackling plastic pollution, increasing recycling rates, improving recyclate quality and minimising litter across Scotland. However, a flat deposit fee plays no part in a successful scheme and would result in a number of hugely negative implications.”

Scottish Government buries its head in the sand with proposed DRS

  • Scottish Government fails to fully consider the views of the public and industry as well as the advice of its own Environment Committee regarding proposed DRS

  • Scots could face upfront beverage price hikes and see plastic bottles flood supermarket shelves as a result

  • MSPs meet later this week (29 April) to answer questions and finalise key elements

The Scottish Government has failed to consider the valuable views of its constituents, the packaging industry and its own Environment Committee regarding the planned introduction of a national deposit return scheme (DRS). That’s the serious concern of the Aluminium Packaging Recycling Organisation (Alupro), which is calling for MSPs to vote against the regulations, as they are currently drafted, at this week’s Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee meeting (29 April).

Aiming to tackle plastic pollution, increase recycling rates, improve recyclate quality and minimise litter, Scotland’s DRS is expected to come into force in 2022. The scheme will see a deposit value added to the price of a beverage product in store, which will be refunded to the customer when empty packaging is returned to a designated collection point.

Under the proposed regulations, a flat deposit fee of 20p will be applied to all sizes of container. This could see customers charged an additional £4.80 upfront for a 24-can multipack, while only 80 pence for the same volume of drink packed in four large plastic bottles. In this scenario, independent research suggests* that two thirds of consumers would be likely to opt for larger plastic alternatives, resulting in the unnecessary production of c.82 m additional plastic bottles.

A Survation** poll, commissioned in February 2020 by Nature 2030 (an international coalition of businesses, politicians and activists working in cooperation to tackle environmental challenges), identified that Scots were fundamentally against this approach, with almost six-in-ten backing an alternative model in which the deposit level varies based on the size of the container they buy. Just 12% of respondents offered their support to a flat fee. All successful DRS schemes operating in the Nordics have a variable fee and even with small deposits the return rate is very high.

A number of leading industry bodies have also spoken out against the flat deposit fee, including the Metal Packaging Manufacturers Association, UK Can Makers and the Aluminium Packaging Recycling Organisation (Alupro), who have formally written to the first minister, members of the ECCLR Committee and Zero Waste Scotland to raise their concerns. However, the Scottish Government has seemingly ignored this collective feedback to date.

Rick Hindley, executive director at Alupro, commented: “While we are fully supportive of a well-designed DRS, we remain deeply apprehensive about a number of points outlined within the regulations in their current form. It is our primary concern that a flat deposit fee will unfairly distort the market and result in a tidal wave of unnecessary plastic bottles – a key issue that the scheme is fundamentally trying to solve.

“What’s more, the majority of consumers buy multipacks, and, at the point of purchase, these will become almost twice as expensive as the equivalent volume in plastic if a DRS is introduced with the same deposit fee. This would not only be a significant additional upfront cost for household budgets, but also result in more customers switching to plastic.

“Aluminium cans are a lightweight, valuable and infinitely recyclable material – the perfect example of a circular economy. In the UK, 75% of aluminium beverage cans are already collected and recycled every year, providing feedstock for new cans to be made. As aluminium cans are the world’s most recycled drinks package, replacing them with plastic alternatives would be a travesty, but unfortunately a real possibility if regulations are approved in their current format.

“To prevent this scenario, we suggest that the deposit amount should not be specified in the regulations and the scheme administrator should set the variable deposit fee based on the size of container, which is normal practice in other countries with high performing DRS systems. What’s more, we also believe that it would be prudent for the Scottish Government to allow itself greater flexibility and scope to react to the market after the covid-19 pandemic.

“It’s a tremendous shame that, despite the ECCLR supporting our call for a variable deposit, and for the scheme administrator to set the deposit, last time they reviewed the proposals, this has seemingly been ignored by the Scottish Government. In addition, some of the information the government has used to justify the proposal is both incorrect and misleading.

“We implore the Scottish Government to consider the hugely negative environmental consequences of approving the regulations in their current form and raise these concerns at the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee meeting later this week.”


To find out more about Alupro, or for more information about the environmental benefits of aluminium packaging, visit




* Survey of 2,000 UK adults, undertaken by Alupro (2019)

** Survey of 1,019 people, aged 16+ living in Scotland, on behalf of Nature 2030 (


We need your metal!

At a time when ‘normal’ life seems to have changed beyond all recognition, it is comforting to know that one thing is consistent.  Recycling may not be at the forefront of anybody’s mind right now, but we can assure you it remains as important as it’s ever been.

We have all seen the images, and many of us experienced first-hand the supermarket shelves standing starkly empty, devoid of many of the products we take for granted.  The suppliers of these products have been working at full capacity since the pandemic reached UK shores to ensure that we can all continue to be supplied with our essentials.  However, our favourite products don’t arrive in store ‘naked’, they need their packaging. Milk needs a bottle, beans need their tin and tonic water needs a can.

And, just as these products need their packaging, we need yours.

We need a constant supply of good quality, clean, dry metal to recycle, manufacture into new packaging and refill ready to be returned to you, containing your favourite products.    Metal packaging such as food and drink cans, foil trays, household wrapping foil, empty aerosols, sweet and biscuit tins and the metal caps from the tops of your glass jars and bottles.

Local councils and their collection crews are working tirelessly to ensure that recycling and waste collections continue as normal in the face of incredibly difficult circumstances. It’s estimated that over 90% of UK councils have so far been able to maintain their recycling service from households, which is excellent news for the recycling and packaging manufacturing industry.

Of course, as we all remain in our homes during this period of lockdown we are producing more waste than normal.   It’s estimated that in normal circumstances 25% of our meals would be consumed outside of the home and the resulting packaging and food waste generated would be handled outside of the home too.   This job now falls to us all.

Recycling metal has many benefits including energy, water and carbon emissions savings. However, whilst we await any changes in guidance from the Government regarding the pandemic, it is important to remain committed to recycling for another reason, to ensure the steady supply of material back to packaging manufacturers in order to continue the flow of material within the packaging loop.

On the bright side, getting into great recycling habits now will benefit all of us in the future and is a major step towards a more sustainable World when we finally return to our new version of ‘normal’.   Just please remember to recycle your metal packaging because WE WANT IT BACK!

To find out more about the different metal packaging that you can recycle please take a look here

i2r wins the Queen’s Award For Enterprise: International Trade

Market leading aluminium foil tray manufacturer and Alupro member, i2r Packaging Solutions, has been honoured with a Queen’s Award for Enterprise: International Trade.

Operating as part of the Italian Laminazione Sottile Group – one of the leading global suppliers of aluminium products – i2r is one of only 220 UK organisations to win a prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise. Announced today (Tuesday 21 April), i2r has been recognised for its excellence in international trade, which has seen the firm return outstanding year on year growth in the last three years.

Established as an environmentally responsible packaging company in 2007, i2r is currently in the third year of a 2018-2022 strategic plan. The firm’s key goals, objectives and vision include delivering new ‘eye-opening’ product ranges, diversifying into new geographical regions and market sectors, championing engineering innovation and to be the lowest cost manufacturer in its sector – all strategies designed to fulfil ambitious financial targets.

The company’s international focus for ongoing further growth is concentrated on countries where there is a desire for high-quality convenience foods, together with demographic similarities in terms of shopping and eating habits, population density and levels of income when compared to the UK market.

Commenting on their achievement, i2r’s commercial director, Jon West, said: “We are thrilled and privileged to have been recognised for international trade with a Queen’s Award. The achievement is testament to the collective and sustained effort from everyone here at i2r who has helped ensure that the business continues to be the unrivalled success story that it is today.”

Now in its 54th year, the Queen’s Awards for Enterprise are the most prestigious business awards in the country, with winning businesses able to use the esteemed Queen’s Awards emblem for the next five years.

i2r Packaging Solutions will celebrate its award during a royal reception for Queen’s Awards winners in the summer.


Change essential if Scottish DRS is to be a success

Earlier this week (16 March), the Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform laid regulations in the Scottish Parliament that will create the legal framework for the Scottish Government’s Deposit Return Scheme (DRS).

The Regulations will now lie before the Scottish Parliament for fifty-four days to allow a further period of scrutiny. There will then be a vote in the Scottish Parliament, after which the scheme will become law. In response to the announcement, Rick Hindley, executive director at Alupro, offers his views:

“For some considerable time, the Scottish Government has been considering plans for the introduction of a national DRS. Aiming to tackle plastic pollution, increase recycling rates, improve recyclate quality and minimise litter, proposals have gained strong support from NGOs and the media.

“However, despite such promise, I was deeply disappointed to read the final scope of the regulations. While sense has prevailed and the commencement date has been pushed back to July 2022, there are still a number of concerning points.

“Firstly, despite widespread opposition, the regulation opts for a flat deposit rate of 20p on all sizes of container. This is double the level typically used in the highly successful Scandinavian programmes and will lead to unintended consequences – specifically on the sales of multipack cans.

“As an example, the cost of 24 cans in a multipack will increase by £4.80, with the same volume in large plastic bottles rising by just 80p in comparison. Research suggests that two thirds of consumers would be likely to switch their purchasing behaviour to the cheaper option, resulting in the unnecessary production of 823 million more plastic bottles (8.2m in Scotland).

“In order to avoid distorting the market, we believe the deposit rate should vary according to the size of the container to avoid favouring one material over another. It’s an approach that works in many Scandinavian countries which are being cited as best practice examples to follow.

“Finally, we are concerned about the timing of the planned assessment of performance against targets. It will become apparent very quickly if the scheme is working, or if changes are needed. Waiting three years for a review could prove hugely (and unnecessarily) damaging to the packaging industry.

“There is much to consider if the Scottish DRS is to be a success. The last thing we’d want is a situation similar to that in Germany, where a poorly designed system caused can sales to plummet by 96% almost overnight.

“As such, we believe changes to the regulations are essential and we implore the Scottish Parliament to think carefully during this fifty-four day period of further scrutiny about the industry’s widespread concerns.”




Alupro response to Coronavirus

UPDATED 25th MARCH 2020:

Like most organisations, we are making our way through the Coronavirus pandemic one day at a time.

Since our update on 18 March (below), all Alupro team members are now working from home.  We keep in touch daily with video calls and are maintaining a reasonable semblance of business as usual for our partners.

Our heartfelt thanks go to those people who continue to deliver services vital for the communities where we all work and live.

Keep safe, be kind, keep recycling.


In response to the current health crisis, here at Alupro we are taking the following measures:

Our office is in a rural location, and except for the postman, we rarely have the opportunity to welcome visitors.  With immediate effect, any meetings planned to take place in the office will now be conducted via virtual meeting tools.  Additionally, no Alupro team members will attend external meetings.

We successfully tested our IT systems on Monday, when the full team worked from home.  It is important that we balance team members’ needs and Government guidance, and so the office will operate with skeleton staffing.  Guidelines to maintain cleanliness to minimise the risk of contamination are being followed.  We are taking this time to ensure that everyone has what they need to effectively work from home as and when the need arises.

We are working closely with partners in order to ensure plans for MetalMatters campaigns remain flexible.

Our Every Can Counts events calendar is clearly subject to change.  We are supporting festival and event organisers, and where necessary, will make our own call in order to protect our recycling ambassadors and the public.  For example, we made the decision not to attend The Boat Race (29 March) before the organisers announced that the event is cancelled.

We are reviewing these measures daily and will continue to respond to Government guidelines and our members’ and team members actions and needs, in order to maintain business as usual for all our partners.

When it comes to metals . . . nothing goes to waste.

Did you know.….from your black bin bag waste, valuable metals can be recovered that you were not able to recycle in the first instance?  As a keen recycler, I thought this was certainly worth exploring.

Scanmetals UK Ltd, based in Willenhall, invited me to tour their recycling and recovery plant, in order to see the process of recovering aluminium and other non-ferrous metals from incineration plants, for the purpose of recycling.

For the uninitiated, the general waste materials are collected at the household kerbside by your local council and taken to an energy from waste plant (EFW). Here the material is passed through the incinerator and the residue left behind is known as incinerator bottom ash (IBA). The majority of this IBA is known as aggregate, and it usually contains an amount of ferrous and non-ferrous metals. The IBA is delivered to an aggregate company where it is cleaned and treated and then the aggregate material is sold to companies like Scanmetals who specialise in the recovery of the non-ferrous metals for recycling.

Before my visit, I was advised not to wear my ‘best clothes’; arriving at Scanmetals, unlike other processing facilities I have visited, there was no distinctive smell, but it is extremely dusty in the arrival bay area.

My guide, the lovely Joao, showed me where the aggregate material is delivered from the suppliers and where it is deposited in the large bay area. Joao explained that each suppliers’ material is kept in separate bays in order to report back to each EFW plant the exact amount of non-ferrous material recovered.

The aggregate material looks like a mass of dusty grey stones of all shapes, but on closer inspection (if you don’t mind the dust), you can easily identify items such as aluminium can lids, toothpaste tubes and aerosols.

Joao explained the aggregate material is loaded onto a hopper and is passed in a drier machine (that looks like a big drum) which removes the dirt and moisture and is then passed into a second drier for further cleaning.

We then walked through into a second warehouse, where the cleaned aggregate material is transported on a sort of enclosed conveyor. In here, there were huge pieces of equipment where the different sizes of metal are treated and separated using the latest sorting technology.

I was shown the different types of metal that the Scanmetals technology can recover, such as aluminium, copper, brass, zinc, stainless steel and a surprisingly large amount of coins.

It is an incredible and unique process that we should be shouting about – when it comes to metals, nothing goes to waste. Inspired by what I saw and working with Scanmetals, we’ve produced a video to show their process of recovering aluminium from non-ferrous aggregate materials.

Click on the film below to view this unique process.


2020 aluminium recycling targets well within reach, thanks to record rates

According to figures released by the Environment Agency (EA) earlier this week (12 March), 116,670 tonnes of aluminium packaging were collected for recycling in the UK last year – a 17% increase compared to 2018 figures (99,852) and surpassing government targets by more than 8,400 tonnes.

Aluminium packaging collected through kerbside, bring and on-the-go systems increased by almost 21% (from 74,595 to 89,974), while tonnage recovered from incinerator bottom ash also experienced an uplift (from 25,546 to 26,696).

Rick Hindley, executive director at Alupro, commented: “I was delighted to read the EA data, which highlights another impressive rise in the volume of aluminium packaging collected and recycled across the UK. Since 2010, the industry has experienced a steady increase (11%), which should be seen as a considerable achievement!

“Record rates suggests increased public awareness about the benefits of  aluminium recycling and positive action towards improving resource efficiency. This highlights the importance of our behavioural change programmes – MetalMatters and Every Can Counts.

“Looking forward to the first two months of 2020, provisional data highlights a year-on-year increase of 52% (compared to the same period in 2019), with 19,371 tonnes of aluminium already collected for recycling.  This, alongside a highly positive carry over, puts the industry in an excellent position to surpass this year’s targets, which again increase by 3% (from 61% to 64%).

“Consequently, under normal market conditions, we anticipate that PRN prices should begin to fall and return to a more realistic and sustainable level. It’s therefore essential that we continue to celebrate increasing recycling rates, while maintaining focus on achieving our ambition of close to 100% recycling across the UK.”

To access the 2019 recycling rates, visit the Environment Agency’s National Packaging Waste Database (NPWD) here.


Alupro appoints Prova to champion the benefits of aluminium packaging

Alupro, the Aluminium Packaging Recycling Organisation, has appointed cleantech and environmental communications consultancy Prova to manage its external public relations activities. The agreement will see Prova deliver a powerful campaign to champion the benefits of aluminium packaging.

Alupro is an industry-funded, not-for-profit organisation with more than 30 years’ experience representing the UK’s aluminium packaging industry. The organisation works hard to fulfil the industry’s obligation to meet, and exceed, recycling targets for aluminium packaging. Members include Novelis, Hydro Aluminium, Crown Holdings, Red Bull UK, Nespresso and Ardagh Group.

Partnering with Prova will help Alupro to maintain its position as the sought-after authority of the sector, position aluminium positively in the national packaging debate and build strong links with the metal packaging sector to stimulate the UK’s collection infrastructure.

Bev Burnham, head of marketing & communications at Alupro, commented: “Aluminium is a true packaging champion. It has an intrinsically high value, can be recycled indefinitely and contributes to a perfectly circular economy.

“With climate change and sustainability continuing to hit the headlines across mainstream media, we wanted to champion the numerous benefits of aluminium packaging and celebrate its circularity. Partnering with Prova will help us to increase our voice and influence behavioural change – a key priority in the midst of government consultations regarding packaging and collections.”

Richard Postins, managing director at Prova, added: “Alupro is respected nationwide for its extensive work across the aluminium packaging loop. Over the coming months, we’re looking forward to working in close partnership with the team to lead the legislative debate, celebrate the circularity of aluminium packaging and build strong relationships across the sector.”


To find out about Prova, or its circular economy experience, visit