Can recycling rates rise again

The overall recycling rate for aluminium beverage cans in the European Union increased by 2.4% to 66.7% in 2010.

Results released by the European Aluminium Association (EAA) show that two out of three drinks cans are recycled in the EU 27. The EU 27 includes EFTA countries and Turkey.

The consumption of aluminium beverage cans increased by a further two billion units to a total of 36 billion cans in 2010. This means that at least 24 billion cans were recycled, resulting in a total greenhouse gas saving of 2.5 million tonnes – the equivalent of taking one 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 1990s, only 30% of all beverage cans were recycled. This figure rose to 52% in 2005, and the association is confident that it should be able to recycle three out of four 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. Examples of countries with high recycling rates include Finland (95%), Germany (96%), Norway (93%), Switzerland (91%) and Denmark (89%).

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.

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 the Every Can Counts concept has been developed, which originally started in the United Kingdom and has since been introduced in France, Austria, Romania, and Hungary. 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 local authorities and waste management companies to improve existing collection and sorting facilities by using the latest available sorting technologies, which can separate the aluminium packaging items from other packaging in a split second.

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