The UK has set ambitious targets and laid down new legislative frameworks to protect and enhance our environment for future generations. A key pillar of this will be how we transition to a circular economy.
In the last decade the recycling rate of aluminium packaging has increased by 30% to a record rate of 68% in 2020.
As an industry we continue to strive towards our target of a 100% recycling rate for aluminium packaging.
This goal is within reach, but not without fundamental change in our approach to packaging and waste management. Large proportions of packaging waste are still not recycled or managed sustainably. However, aluminium is infinitely recyclable and is perfect for a circular economy.
This is our manifesto to deliver a world class recycling system for the UK, where endlessly recyclable aluminium drives sustainable jobs in a circular economy.
There must be consistency of local authority kerbside collections to ensure that all infinitely recyclable aluminium packaging is collected for recycling where feasible.
Local authorities and responsible parties must put in place ambitious on-the-go recycling and collection infrastructure that vastly increases the collection of recyclable materials when consumed away-from-home.
Authorities and responsible parties must collaborate with industry to deliver consistent communications campaigns. This should include clear on-pack labelling which highlights the infinitely recyclable nature of all aluminium packaging and reminds consumers to recycle it.
The Government and responsible parties must implement a well-designed Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) for the UK that promotes collection of at least 90% of all drink containers including aluminium cans, with a variable deposit fee depending on container size to prevent unintended environmental consequences.
a. A DRS would place an additional charge on drink containers that can be recouped when they are returned to a collection point. The deposit rate should be variable depending on the container size to mitigate the risk of people reaching for larger plastic bottles to avoid paying multiple deposits on smaller endlessly recyclable items such as aluminium cans in multipacks.
b. It should facilitate ‘closed-loop’ recycling of collected containers, particularly aluminium cans, to ensure they are sold to recyclers in a fair and transparent market.
c. It must recognise the role aluminium’s high value plays in funding the collection of aluminium cans in a DRS and use this to offset the costs for obligated can-using businesses only.
The Government and responsible parties must implement a well-designed and cost-effective Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) system, with varying fees for producers to recognise and incentivise use of the most sustainable materials like aluminium.
a. It should encourage the ‘closed-loop’ recycling of packaging that plays a crucial role in delivering products safely and preventing waste.
b. It should enable accurate reporting of recycling rates by assessing packaging based on its dominant material to help Government, local authorities and industry track progress against targets.
The Government and responsible parties must support innovation, investment of infrastructure and deployment of proven technologies that facilitate the widespread recycling of packaging, thus ensuring that all infinitely recyclable aluminium can be recovered and delivering highly-skilled green jobs.
Energy From Waste is an important stage in waste management and the recovery of valuable metals from Incinerator Bottom Ash (IBA) ensures permanent materials such as aluminium are retained in the circular economy. The recovery of aluminium from IBA should be recognised as a key element of the recycling process and be accounted for when calculating recycling rates.