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Record aluminium can recycling across Europe

The recycling rate for aluminium beverage cans in the European Union, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland stands at 73%.

Despite a three-point drop compared to 2019, a 9% growth of cans consumed means that recycled aluminium reached a record level of 510 000 tonnes, according to a new report by Metal Packaging Europe and European Aluminium.  

It says it is an increase of more than 20 000 tonnes compared to the previous year and represents a total greenhouse gas emissions saving of 4.2 million tonnes of CO₂e – equivalent to the GHG emissions produced by a European city of nearly half a million inhabitants like Toulouse or Gdansk.

The report points out that most EU Member States now report at the point of entrance of a recycling facility, instead of the collection phase. This has resulted in lower figures for most packaging materials.

Can manufacturers and their aluminium suppliers welcome the new data and say that despite new EU recycling reporting rules and the ‘spectacular growth’ in cans consumed, the total tonnage of recycled aluminium cans has increased.

‘We are fully supportive of the new EU recycling reporting rules as they measure “real” recycling and we are pleased to notice that this has resulted in only a very minor and likely only temporary drop in the can recycling rate,’ says Léonie Knox-Peebles, ceo of Metal Packaging Europe. ‘The aluminium beverage can already meets the highest recyclability performance grade of 95% as proposed in the new draft for a Packaging & Packaging Waste Regulation.’

‘With more countries turning to deposit return schemes (DRS), we will be able to recycle more cans via a can-to-can remelting solution,’ comments Maarten Labberton, director, packaging group at European Aluminium. ‘We are calling upon those countries with classic EPR systems to invest more in the collection and sorting of the whole aluminium packaging fraction in order to fully close the material loop.’

Labberton adds: ‘Although we are surprised by the unfounded high reuse targets in the new EU proposal, we welcome the obligation to collect 90% or more of metal and plastic beverage containers for recycling, preferably via a DRS.’

In his view, such a scheme should be balanced, meaning it should be run by an independent operator, have variable deposit fees and no cross-subsidies between the materials concerned.

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