The overall recycling rate for aluminium beverage cans in the EU 27* increased by 2.4% to 66.7% in 2010.
After the difficult economic situation in the previous years the consumption of aluminium beverage cans increased by a further 2 billion units to a total of 36 billion cans in 2010. This means that at least 24 billion aluminium beverage cans were recycled, resulting in a total greenhouse gas saving of 2.5 million tonnes – the equivalent of taking 1 million passenger cars off the roads for a whole year!
The European Aluminium Association has now reported for 20 consecutive years about the recycling results for the aluminium beverage in Europe. Back in the early Nineties, only 30% of all beverage cans were recycled. This figure rose to 52% in 2005, meaning that we are confident that we should be able to recycle 3 out of 4 cans by 2015 or thereabouts, with further growth potential for the years up to 2020
Several countries are already close to or even above this result, due to their highly efficient and well-established collection and sorting infrastructures (see annex – details per country).
Countries with well-managed ‘Green Dot’ systems usually collect aluminium beverage cans together with other metal packaging, and can easily sort out the aluminium fraction afterwards, for remelting by the aluminium recycling industry. This is even truer of deposit systems, which generate a clean fraction of used aluminium beverage cans that are immediately ready for recycling back into new cans or other valuable aluminium products such as window frames, bicycles or engine blocks, with an energy saving of 95% compared to primary production.
In order to capture the remaining cans, the aluminium industry, together with the beverage can makers, is focusing on cans that are consumed ‘outside the home’, for example at the workplace or at events and festivals. For this purpose we have developed the ‘Every Can Counts’ concept, which originally started in the United Kingdom and has meanwhile been introduced in France, Austria, Romania, and Hungary, and in the near future also in Ireland. ‘Every Can Counts’ points out the importance of recycling each and every beverage can, regardless of where its contents are actually consumed.
EAA continues to encourage the local authorities and waste management companies to improve existing collection and sorting facilities by using the latest available sorting technologies such as eddy currents and high-tech recognition systems, which can separate the aluminium packaging items from other packaging in a split second.
In this respect, EAA is very happy with the recent European Parliament report on ‘Resource Efficiency’, which calls on the Member States to encourage the use of such technologies. Additionally, the European Parliament recognized for the first time materials such as metals as ‘permanent materials’. Due to their characteristics, aluminium and other metals are infinitely recyclable, and are thus from an environmental point of view at an equal level with existing categories such as renewable and biodegradable materials.