Aluminium packaging recycling rates surpass 2020 target

According to data released by the Environment Agency earlier this week (22 October), aluminium packaging recycling rates have officially exceeded their 2020 target with three months of the year still remaining.

Q3 saw 42,265 tonnes of aluminium packaging collected for recycling, an increase of 41% compared to the same period in 2019 and 4% higher than the previous quarter in 2020 (40,653). To date in 2020, 119,198 tonnes of aluminium packaging has been collected for recycling – an increase of 48% compared to the same period in 2019.

With a net annual requirement of 113,390 tonnes, taking into consideration a 2019 carry-in of 7,746 tonnes, this means that aluminium packaging recycling rates have already exceeded 2020 targets by more than 5%.

Aluminium packaging collected through kerbside, bring and on-the-go systems totalled 78,685 tonnes (an increase of 28% compared to 2019), while tonnage recovered from incinerator bottom ash (IBA) more than doubled (from 19,139 in 2019 to 40,513 in 2020).

Rick Hindley, executive director at Alupro, commented: “The UK’s PRN data for Q3 shows an astonishing year-on-year increase among separately collected aluminium packaging, other local protocol fractions and aluminium packaging recovered from IBA. I’m delighted that rates have surpassed their target with three months of the year still remaining!

“Following the UK’s COVID-19 lockdown in March and resulting spike in home working, it’s great to see the results of the nation’s continued commitment to recycling its aluminium packaging. This, alongside greater public awareness of the benefits of recycling, have combined to drive the highest aluminium packaging recycling rate ever reported.

“As we move into Q4, assuming volumes remain high and residents continue to consume at home rather than on-the-go, we could see recycling rates reach close to 70% for all aluminium packaging and more than 80% for aluminium beverage cans before the end of the year.”

Why data quality is key to the future of UK packaging recycling

Tom Giddings, Sustainability and Public Affairs Manager at Alupro, discusses the importance of consistency in UK recycling data and explains why collaboration, simplification and standardisation will prove pivotal as the UK transitions towards a more circular economy.

Over the coming years, the packaging industry will experience seismic change. Consultations are expected in early 2021 regarding proposals for the introduction of a highly-functioning Deposit Return Scheme (DRS), much-needed reforms to the Producer Responsibility system , the national harmonisation of household waste collections across England as well as the recently completed consultation on the Plastics Packaging Tax.

With the ambition of improving recycling rates, supporting the UK’s transition towards a more circular economy and eliminating the scourge of litter, these reforms have the potential to revolutionise waste management. However, data quality is essential to their successful development and smooth implementation – not only as an accurate reference point to inform strategy and legislation, but also to demonstrate positive resulting impact and change.

Unfortunately, the UK’s recycling data is disaggregated, decentralised and widely deemed unsuitable for purpose. Unless we can effectively harness the reforms as an opportunity for change, we run the risk of creating further unnecessary complexity and failing to effectively leverage the biggest opportunity of a generation.

 

Why data is key to unlocking the future

Over the past decade, the UK’s perception towards packaging recycling has changed significantly. Now, more than ever, best practice waste management is being positioned as a primary driver of our transition towards a more circular economy. With strict targets set out by EU law, combined with increasing proactivity from both households and businesses alike, how we handle our packaging waste is now squarely in the spotlight.

Four consultations happening simultaneously is proof enough that real change is coming. In fact, the waste management landscape of the future will be hugely different to what it is today. Circularity, sustainability and treating waste as a resource will soon become commonplace, rather than just being seen as part of the solution.

However, while each of these proposals will fundamentally improve how waste is valued in the UK, they also represent a step-change in complexity and ambition, meaning significant funding is imperative to turn visionary thinking into tangible reality. With money in mind, there will undoubtably be more pressure than ever to closely track performance and prove value – a job that relies almost entirely on the accuracy of recycling data.

This is where the situation becomes a little more complicated. While progress has been made, a key failing of the UK’s recycling data is its historical reputation for being disaggregated, decentralised and non-standardised.

Even now, it’s hard to assess how well the UK is doing against targets, thanks to the vast number of databases used and various ways in which criteria is analysed. For example, national recycling performance is assessed against whether enough packaging recovery notes (PRNs) have been issued to cover the packaging placed on the market (via the National Packaging Waste Database). Conversely, local authority collections are assessed by analysing tonnes of recyclate as a percentage of total waste (via tools such as WasteDataFlow).

What’s more, these two databases, scrutinised as an example, are populated by both local authorities and independent packaging companies simultaneously. Data entry is open to interpretation, with different rules applying to different geographies and no enforceable penalties incurred for missing data or late entry.

While concerning, this scenario is commonplace across almost every packaging recycling data avenue and, in truth, suggests a lack of strong governance. With the critical importance of accurate recycling data, reliance on such disparate data is hugely concerning.

 

Devising a better platform for the future

While it’s safe to suggest that existing recycling data is unsuitable for purpose, we have a significant and immediate opportunity to change things for the better. The upcoming reforms provide an unprecedented opening to simplify, standardise and collaborate.

Imperative to this new approach is creating a failsafe, uniform way of reporting both the quantities and end of life destinations of different waste streams collected from UK households. This should include a breakdown of all key components that can be analysed separately, such as aluminium, to allow accurate and comparable analysis.

In an ideal scenario, this standardisation of data should be legislated and enforced accordingly, rather than being left to the discretion of those inputting the data, as well as being made accessible to all in a simple and effective manner.

By realising this change, we could achieve a number of things. Firstly, we would be able to accurately (and honestly) report on UK recycling rates – stream by stream. Secondly, we would be able to analyse and report successes and progress achieved. Finally, we will have an honest, reliable platform on which to base model future waste management decisions upon.

Conversely, if we fail to embrace change, we will be wedded to relying on frankly unsuitable data to inform the future of our national waste management strategy. What’s more, we will have missed our one glaring opportunity to fix a poorly functioning part of the UK’s waste management equation.

Granted, revolution will not prove a quick, easy or cheap fix, but the results will deliver a multitude of immediate – and long-lasting – benefits.

 

Tom Giddings – biography

As sustainability and public affairs manager at Alupro, Tom Giddings is responsible for supporting the not-for-profit organisation’s government engagement programme and providing technical advice across a range of sustainability challenges.

Previously, Tom held sustainability management, data and reporting roles at international packaging provider DS Smith. He has spoken on the importance of quality data and standardising the measurement of performance at several United Nations events, most recently at the COP 25 event in Madrid.

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Alupro launches campaign to educate primary pupils about recycling

Alupro, the aluminium packaging recycling organisation, has announced the launch of its 2020 primary education programme. From Monday 28 September, schools across the UK and Ireland will be recruited to participate in the initiative, which aims to bring recycling into the classroom through science, art, design and PHSE.

The anime-inspired Key Stage 2 (KS2) campaign will see schoolchildren introduced to heroine Ally Minium and asked to join her quest to defeat evil villain Land Phil, who is threatening to take over the planet. Comprising an introductory video, an interactive lesson about recycling and a series of quests for pupils to complete, the creative programme will task pupils with becoming ‘masters of infinity’.

After completing all the quests, using a series of custom-designed character cards, pupils will complete a pledge to recycle their waste and help others to do the same. The aim of the initiative is to generate awareness of the benefits of recycling all household packaging, including aluminium, as well as drive a long-term shift in recycling behaviour among young people and their families.

Rick Hindley, executive director at Alupro, commented: “Inspiring the next generation and educating students about the properties of aluminium and the role it plays within the circular economy will help contribute to ever-increasing recycling rates. At Alupro, we love working with pupils to build awareness of sustainability and support teachers as they work with their class to promote the benefits of recycling. Our resources have been designed to be hugely flexible and, as such, can even be used by students for home schooling!”

As part of the campaign, students will be invited to enter a competition (which runs between 28 September and 14 December) to complete an anime-based comic strip, for the chance to win an iPad to take home and a £1500 voucher for their school. Rick added: “We’re really looking forward to seeing the entries and the exciting adventures they design. I’d like to offer the best of luck to everyone who takes part!”

ALFED, the aluminium federation, will be part funding the programme. For more information, or to download the resources, visit: https://nationalschoolspartnership.com/initiatives/alupro-masters-of-infinity/. For more information about Alupro, visit: www.alupro.org.uk.

 

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Alupro celebrates UK’s commitment to recycling during lockdown

Alupro, the aluminium packaging recycling organisation, has thrown its full support behind Recycle Week (21-27 September). Organised by Recycle Now, this year’s campaign will run under the banner ‘Together We Recycle’ and aims to celebrate household recycling through the COVID-19 pandemic.

With aluminium recycling rates continuing to increase, the UK has already collected and recycled more than 95,000 tonnes of aluminium packaging to date in 2020.* Changing public perceptions and positive action from households nationwide have proven pivotal to driving this progress.

Now in its 17th year, Recycle Week aims to celebrate these figures and inspire even more people to recycle. This year’s campaign also aims to thank the waste management key workers who kept the industry moving during the national lockdown.

Rick Hindley, executive director of Alupro, commented: “2020 has been a hugely challenging year. It has, however, highlighted the changing perceptions and widespread determination of householders to recycle their packaging waste, alongside the sheer resilience of the waste management industry.

“Since the start of the year, the UK’s aluminium recycling rates have continued to increase. It’s hugely positive to see such progress through kerbside, bring and on-the-go systems, as well as aluminium packaging recovered from incinerator bottom ash (IBA). With more than 95,000 tonnes collected already this year, we’re well on our way to exceeding targets.

“We’re delighted to support Recycle Week and want to play a key role in celebrating national progress. The campaign reflects the purpose of our own behavioural change campaigns, Every Can Counts and Metal Matters, which are both delivering profound change in national perceptions towards recycling.”

Alupro has represented the UK’s packaging recycling industry for more than 30 years. The organisation’s Every Can Counts and Metal Matters behavioural change programmes continue to deliver exceptional results. Last month, Every Can Counts erected a giant rainbow on the Brighton beach seafront to promote recycling, while Leicester City Council has just announced a partnership with Metal Matters to encourage greater recycling across the city.

To celebrate Recycle Week, the Every Can Counts team is launching a recycling-themed augmented reality filter game (23 September). Catch ‘Em If You Can will offer players the chance to win a PlayStation 5 and will be accessible via both Facebook and Instagram.

For more information about Recycle Week, visit: https://www.recyclenow.com/recycling-knowledge/recycle-week-campaign. For more information about Alupro, visit: www.alupro.org.uk. To play Catch ‘Em If You Can, visit the Every Can Counts Facebook or Instagram page.

 

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* According to provisional monthly packaging data published by the Environment Agency

Alupro to sponsor Student Starpack Awards

Alupro, the aluminium packaging recycling organisation, has been announced as the latest sponsor of the 2021 Student Starpack Awards. Organised by the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3), the competition challenges university students to identify creative packaging solutions to problems set by leading brands

As part of the agreement, Alupro has provided a comprehensive brief, tasking applicants with the design of a personal grooming product to highlight the sustainability, recyclability and shelf appeal of aluminium. Alongside a cash prize of £500, the winner will be welcomed to the Crown Packaging Global Technology and R&D centre in Wantage to see, first-hand, the packaging design and development process.

The Student Starpack competition, established in 1964, aims to inspire the next generation of packaging experts by identifying, rewarding and supporting talented young people and their tutors, encouraging them to bring innovative new ideas to the UK’s every-growing packaging industry.

Rick Hindley, executive director at Alupro, commented: “Inspiring the next generation and encouraging students to consider roles in the packaging industry is key to the sector’s continued progress. Initiatives likes the Starpack Student Awards provide an excellent platform for applicants to really challenge convention and embrace creativity.

“By supporting this year’s competition, we hope to inspire fresh new thinking and help the designers of tomorrow consider the importance of sustainability. We’re looking forward to seeing the responses to our brief and how the applicants use the unique qualities of aluminium to create their designs. I’d like to offer the best of luck to everyone who takes part!”

As part of the brief, The Aluminium Federation (ALFED) will provide free bespoke training sessions on the benefits of using aluminium in packaging design. For more information about the Starpack awards, visit: www.iom3.org/starpack.

 

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Aluminium packaging recycling rates reach record levels, shows Q2 PRN data

According to data released by the Environment Agency earlier this week (22 July), a record 40,653 tonnes of aluminium packaging were collected for recycling in Q2 2020. This indicates that 76,933 tonnes were collected for recycling in the first half of the year – a significant increase of 52% compared to the same period in 2019 (50,744).

Aluminium packaging collected through kerbside, bring and on-the-go systems increased by 37% during the first half of the year (53,312 in 2020, compared to 38,882 in 2019), while tonnage recovered from incinerator bottom ash (IBA) nearly doubled (23,621 in 2020, compared to 11,862 in 2019).

Rick Hindley, executive director at Alupro, commented: “The UK’s PRN data for Q2 2020 shows a hugely impressive year-on-year increase in the volume of aluminium packaging collected for recycling. Alongside greater public awareness about the benefits of recycling, figures should be attributed to the COVID-19 lockdown and the resulting increase in household recycling volumes.

“Perhaps the most surprising statistic was the hike in aluminium packaging recovered from IBA, which rose by an astonishing 99% compared to the same period in 2019. This, to some extent, can be accounted to an increase in the number of IBA processors accredited for reprocessing, as well as an increasing number of energy from waste (EfW) facilities coming on-stream nationwide. However, we are currently awaiting further verification of this data.

“With PRNs already raised for more than 76,000 tonnes of aluminium packaging in 2020, the future looks bright. While nothing is certain in this current climate, we are optimistic that, providing local authority collections continue to operate as normal, recycling rates will continue to rise and we will once again surpass annual targets.

“In fact, with 68% of this year’s obligation already achieved, it could be possible to realise recycling rates close to 80% for all aluminium packaging and 90% for aluminium beverage cans! Of course, this relies heavily on sustaining current rates throughout the rest of the year, PRN values remaining stable and no future disruptions to local authority collections.”

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Alupro appoints sustainability and public affairs manager

Alupro, the aluminium packaging recycling organisation, has announced the appointment  of Tom Giddings as sustainability and public affairs manager. Joining the business from international packaging provider DS Smith, Giddings has significant experience within the packaging and recycling industries.

In his new role, Giddings will work closely with Alupro’s executive director, Rick Hindley, to lead the not-for-profit organisation’s government engagement programme. He will also be responsible for providing technical advice across a range of sustainability challenges, alongside consulting with members and partners throughout the aluminium value chain on new recycling initiatives.

Rick Hindley, executive director at Alupro, commented: “At Alupro, we are working to fulfil the industry’s obligation to meet, and exceed, recycling targets for aluminium packaging. In partnership with local authorities, the waste management industry and the wider metal packaging sector, we aim to develop and stimulate the UK’s collection infrastructure.

“With experience in government policy and legislative development, Tom is the perfect addition to our team. He will play a crucial part of representing Alupro and the wider industry, and work to further develop our programmes which support local authorities, such as MetalMatters.”

Commenting on his appointment, Giddings added: “It’s a privilege to join the Alupro team at such a pivotal time for the aluminium packaging recycling industry. The circular economy plays a driving role in the packaging materials of tomorrow and, with enviable properties and infinite recyclability, aluminium will be at the forefront. For years, the industry has been focused on finding a sustainable alternative to plastic. However, the solution has been there all along. This is a huge opportunity to drive a real, national change.”

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Aluminium on AIR podcast: Lockdown boosts recycling

As the latest data shows that the UK Lockdown has driven a spike in aluminium packaging recycling rates, this week, Alupro’s Executive Director, Rick Hindley, speaks to Nadine Bloxsome Editor of Aluminium International Today about the drivers behind the increase and his thoughts on what a fixed fee Deposit Return Scheme would mean and should look like in the UK.

 

 

 

UK lockdown drives spike in aluminium packaging recycling rates, shows latest PRN data

According to data released by the Environment Agency on 10th June, 17,066 tonnes of aluminium packaging were collected for recycling in the UK last month (May) – an increase of 48% compared to the same period in 2019.

With the UK lockdown resulting in a significant increase in the volume of aluminium packaging collected via kerbside systems, the number of PRNs raised have consequently skyrocketed. In fact, over the past three months alone, 38,014 tonnes of aluminium packaging were collected for recycling nationwide (compared to just 25,986 during the same period last year).

Commenting on the data, Rick Hindley, executive director at Alupro, said: “The UK’s PRN data for May shows a dramatic increase, both month-on-month and year-on-year, in aluminium packaging recycling rates. Alongside greater public awareness about the benefits of recycling and an increase in the number of companies – including incinerator bottom ash processors – accredited for reprocessing, impressive rates can be attributed to the COVID-19 lockdown and resulting increase in household recycling volumes.

“With PRNs already raised for more than 57,000 tonnes of aluminium packaging in 2020, the future looks hugely optimistic. If recycling rates continue to remain high and local authority collections continue to operate as normal, I am confident that we will once again surpass annual targets.”

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.”

 

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