Aluminium drink cans hit 75% recycling rate, an increase of 38% in just eight years

The UK aluminium drink can recycling rate has risen to 75%, its highest ever level, up from 54% in 2010.  Additionally, 95% of aluminium packaging collected in the UK is recycled within Europe, rather than being sent around the globe. At a time when sustainability is so front of mind, the drink can remains the most recycled packaging in the world.

The overall aluminium packaging rate has continued to rise steadily too, from 41% in 2010 to 52% in 2018, meaning that over 100,000 tonnes of aluminium packaging sold in the UK was recycled last year.

These significant improvements in UK aluminium recycling rates is attributed to the investment made by the aluminium sector as a whole to ensure that the packaging they produce is recycled.

Programmes managed by the Aluminium Packaging Recycling Organisation (Alupro) such as MetalMatters and Every Can Counts are positively impacting the behaviour of people across the UK by creating awareness of the recyclability of aluminium and metal packaging.

Rick Hindley, executive director of Alupro commented: “Aluminium is the perfect example of the circular economy because it can be recycled forever. We know that British consumers want to do their part, so we’re delighted that more cans are being recycled than ever before.  Within 60 days the can you recycle could be back on the shelves as another can.”

The government is currently consulting on reform to the producer responsibility system, which could lead to more accurate reporting of recycling rates.  A significant volume of used aluminium packaging is being recycled from Refuse Derived Fuel outside the UK, but not currently being officially recorded towards UK targets.  This means the latest impressive rates are still underreported, and future recycling rates for aluminium packaging will be even higher under these reforms.


Aluminium packaging – real recycling: As aluminium drinks cans hit 72% recycling rate, data shows that almost 100% is recycled within Europe.

Whilst we are consumed by the issues of packaging pollution and concerns about where our recycling ends up, there is some good news.

The recycling rate for aluminium drinks cans continues to increase year on year, hitting 72% in 2017[1] (up from 70% in 2016), whilst the national recycling rate for all aluminium packaging reached 51% (up from 50% in 2016).

According to packaging waste recovery data, recently released by the Environment Agency[2], aluminium packaging easily achieved its 2017 business target.

There was a 4% increase in the number of PRNS raised in 2017 (94,092 tonnes) vs 2016 (90,095 tonnes).  Ultimately, the PRN numbers show that over 8,000 tonnes of aluminium PRNs were raised but not issued.  As in previous years, there is evidence that some reprocessors/exporters chose not to become accredited or decided not to raise the maximum number of PRNs that they could have done, due to the resulting low PRN prices.   This underlines Alupro’s support for reforms to the PRN system; our priorities are to ensure the system accurately records all the aluminium packaging collected for recycling, that consumer focussed behaviour change programmes are properly funded and that “real recycling” is recognised and rewarded.

Data also shows that 92% of the aluminium packaging collected for recycling in the UK, is recycled within Europe[3]; this demonstrates that there is more than sufficient capacity within the EU to recycle the aluminium packaging recovered for recycling in the UK.

Commenting on the recycling rates, Alupro’s Executive Director Rick Hindley said “It is fantastic to see aluminium packaging recycling rates continuing to increase year on year.  We must continue to increase awareness and understanding of what happens to used aluminium packaging when it is recycled. Given widespread concerns regarding where our kerbside recycling ends up, and whether it is actually recycled, we believe the 92% is statistic will give people the confidence that when they recycle aluminium packaging, it really is recycled – and close to home.

“Aluminium packaging has an intrinsic value.  The issue is encouraging consumers to recognise aluminium packaging as an extremely cost-effective material to recycle, through education and effective communications.  In the UK, developing and stimulating the existing kerbside collection infrastructure is a great starting point, but consistency is essential – the public remains confused by the differing rules across local authorities.  We must help them to do the right thing and recycle.”

Alupro manages several programmes funded by metal packaging manufacturers, reprocessors and leading brands, which the industry believes are making a vital contribution towards encouraging consumers to recycle more. MetalMatters focuses on improving metal capture rates in local authority recycling schemes; whilst Every Can Counts supports organisations wanting to enable people to recycle the beverage cans used outside the home.


[1] The recycling rate for aluminium beverage cans is calculated by Alupro using data supplied by the national packaging waste database and by its member companies, using methodology consistent with that used across Europe to calculate recycling rates.


[3] The ‘End destination’ data was obtained under a “freedom of information” request from the Environment Agency. 51% of aluminium packaging collected was recycled in the UK and 41% recycled in Europe.

Alupro response to withdrawl of Aluminium Packaging Protocols

The Aluminium Packaging Recycling Organisation (Alupro), recognising the impact of the changing nature of recycling collection systems, has undertaken a detailed review of the amount of aluminium packaging present in the mixed aluminium scrap grade known as “Old Rolled”. The study concluded that there are minimal volumes of aluminium packaging present in mixed aluminium scrap and Alupro therefore welcomes the Environment Agency’s (EA) decision to withdraw the “old rolled protocol” and three* other aluminium scrap protocols from the PRN system, commencing 1 January 2015.

Alupro, which represents the UK’s leading aluminium packaging producers and reprocessors, recognises that since the protocols were first introduced nearly 20 years ago, collection systems have changed significantly. With widespread introduction of kerbside collection schemes, the once robust protocols are no longer relevant. With far more high quality aluminium packaging material recovered kerbside, and less appearing in general scrap, Alupro agrees that it is now appropriate to withdraw the protocols.

The sampling project was funded by Alupro, whose members consider the integrity of data on aluminium packaging collected for recycling to be of paramount importance. The proactive approach taken by Alupro will ensure that data accounting for the recovery of aluminium packaging material is accurate and truly reflects the efforts and activities the organisation and its members undertake to recover this valuable resource.

The new Incinerator Bottom Ash (IBA) protocol, recently acknowledged by the EA (read more) further highlights how the UK’s collection systems have evolved over the last 20 years, ensuring that aluminium packaging material recovered this way, and previously unaccounted for, will now rightly be reported as part the aluminium packaging recycling performance.

Speaking about the removal of protocols, Rick Hindley, Executive Director, Alupro, said: “Accuracy of data reporting is essential if the UK is to meet its recycling obligations and targets, so the revision of the aluminium packaging protocols will ensure that measurement of our sector’s performance is robust and reflects the current collection infrastructure. To maintain confidence in the data we have agreed with the EA that the new incinerator bottom ash protocol will be reviewed every three years. This protocol revision and review process is something we feel other materials should undertake so that the recycling sector can be confident in the accuracy of its data.”

Alupro has long called for greater accuracy in the PRN reporting system and the need for all materials to be treated equally if recycling obligations and targets are to be met – and this is why the organisation has taken steps to ensure its own figures are robust.

Rick added: “It is hoped that the work undertaken by Alupro to verify the flows of recycled aluminium packaging and the subsequent withdrawal and adoption of various protocols, will mean the reported recycling data for aluminium packaging will be the most accurate for any material.”


* The three other protocols are:
• Mixed Aluminium Alloy Cuttings
• New Pure Aluminium
• New Scrap of One Aluminium Alloy

Study reveals ‘real’ aluminium packaging recycling rate

Alupro study into ‘real’ recycling rate for aluminium packaging in 2015 reveals over 10,000 tonnes of unreported material.

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Alu D&T Challenge: Winners announced!

Winners of the 2015/16 Alu D&T Challenge, a design competition for 11 to 14 year olds, were announced at a prize-giving event at Thinktank Science Museum in Birmingham on 24 February.

The national schools’ competition, linked to the Design and Technology curriculum at Key Stage 3, helps teach pupils about the material properties and sustainability potential of aluminium by challenging them to design a sustainable product for the future using aluminium. Read more

Alupro responds to the Government’s Consultation on Packaging Recycling Targets to 2017

Recycling Targets Must Rise

Commenting on the Government’s Consultation on recovery and recycling targets for packaging waste for 2013-2017, Rick Hindley, Alupro (Aluminium Packaging Recycling Organisation) executive director, said: “The consultation represents a chance to raise targets and maximise recycling performance for aluminium and all other packaging materials.

“The continuation of static targets will not help the aluminium packaging industry: new, more challenging recycling targets are needed to ensure we make the most of the aluminium and wider metal packaging industries’ investment which has under-pinned continued year on year improvements in recycling levels.

“The industry’s desire to maximise recycling performance is as strong as ever and industry-led programmes have already achieved some significant results. In 2010 Every Can Counts saw over 27 million drinks cans captured from workplaces around the UK for recycling while MetalMatters, the new programme managed by Alupro, is proven and has the potential to significantly improve kerbside recycling volumes by boosting capture rates for metal packaging and indeed other materials too.

“In addition, we welcome the significant proposal to bring the measurement of our recycling performance on to an equal footing with all other EU countries: aluminium used in composite or laminate packaging that cannot be mechanically separated for recycling, should not be counted as aluminium packaging as defined in the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive.

“The consultation represents a much needed chance to raise packaging recycling targets and we look forward to working with Government to maximise recycling performance.”

Alupro figures show aerosols and aluminium foil “widely” collected for recycling

New figures released by Alupro show 96% of councils in the UK are collecting aerosols and 86% are collecting aluminium foil for recycling.

mixed_foil_trays_filled01Over the past three years, the number of councils collecting aerosols has increased from 87% to 96%, providing almost complete coverage throughout the UK. Meanwhile, foil recycling has also seen a dramatic increase in collection, from just 35% of councils in 2007 to 86% today. Read more

Eat, Drink, be Merry … and Recycle!

The Aluminium Packaging Recycling Organisation (Alupro) has added to its range of free resources to help local authorities encourage residents to recycle aluminium packaging over Christmas. Read more

Every Can Counts returns to Coca-Cola Christmas truck tour

This year’s Coca-Cola Christmas truck tour will again be supported by drinks can recycling programme Every Can Counts. The campaign is designed to engage consumers and boost recycling rates among consumers across Great Britain.

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Alupro’s Position on the EU Circular Economy Proposals

The EU Commission has proposed packaging recycling targets of 65% by 2025 and 75% by 2030. Targets for individual waste streams include 85% for aluminium. Read more