The publication of the Q4 2014 recycling performance data shows that Aluminium packaging recycling in the UK increased by 3% over the year and achieved its 46% target. As the first quarter of 2015 nears its end Alupro Executive Director Rick Hindley looks at the outlook for the sector in the months ahead:
2015 may be only a matter of weeks old but it’s been an eventful year already for the recycling sector. This industry is constantly evolving, and coping with the challenges that arise from the vagaries of the market and the decisions of politicians at home and in Brussels are some of the things that make it so vibrant and interesting to be a part of. But already this year we have seen uncertainty over markets, commodity prices and reprocessing capacity in addition to the ever-present concern over tighter budgets and flat-lining recycling performance. The additional uncertainty about the future policy decisions following the upcoming General Election means we are set for some interesting months ahead.
The publication of the 2014 packaging recycling performance data last week (March 12th) raised concerns for some materials but it was interesting that of all the packaging materials Aluminium’s performance (up 3% on 2013) didn’t attract comment from the trade press. Bad news makes good headlines, and aluminium meeting its target, retaining a steady price and having a stable market is not bad news. Particularly encouraging for aluminium and the UK recycling sector is that 75% of the reprocessing of aluminium packaging in 2014 was carried out in the UK, in fact for aluminium classed as 100% packaging this figure rises to 83%. More good news that the press haven’t picked up on just yet.
There is good news in our sector. For example the MetalMatters programme, developed and funded by the metal packaging industry, has now directly targeted 3 million households across 50 local authorities, achieving positive results every time for around 30p per household, and return on investment within 12 months. The campaign offers a cost-effective solution for cash-strapped local authorities looking to combat flat-lining recycling performance and landfill tax increases: the materials are tried and tested and there is a comprehensive range of communications material available, plus help with funding and free advice and support from the Alupro team who have been involved in every campaign. And once the initial investment has been recovered the improved revenue stream keeps adding to the bottom line.
Aluminium’s intrinsic value lies in its endless recyclability. Every time metal passes through the recycling ‘loop’ it saves energy and emissions and cuts the environmental impact of the next product made. Aluminium might only make up 1% of the domestic waste stream but it can contribute up to 25% of the value of recyclables in a kerbside collection. Drinks cans, foil trays and empty aerosols are collected by most local authorities and the sector has worked hard on communications campaigns to widen the range of materials collected, and educate householders about how to recycle other types of aluminium packaging, for example coffee capsules and screw caps and closures.
Investing in campaigns that increase metal, and in particular, aluminium capture rates offer a ‘circular’ solution to the challenges faced by the industry today. The industry has programmes set up and waiting to be rolled out, and we know they make a positive contribution towards lasting behaviour change without blowing a budget. It might not be the sensational headline grabbing story the trade press want, but I don’t think I’ll be losing too much sleep over that!