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UK aluminium packaging recycling rates rocket during pandemic

Aluminium packaging collected for recycling in the UK reached its highest ever level in 2020, according to the Environment Agency. Experts believe the coronavirus crisis and lockdowns have been a major push.

While reprocessors and exporters have until the end of the month to report their final annual tonnage, data from the National Packaging Waste Database (NPWD) reveals that 145 000 tonnes of aluminium packaging was collected for recycling in the UK last year – 24% up from 2019 and exceeding the 2020 target by more than 26%.

Aluminium packaging collected through kerbside, bring, and on-the-go systems increased year-on-year while the tonnage recovered from incinerator bottom ash also experienced a significant uplift. While 2020 proved a positive year for overall recycling rates, aluminium set the standard by exceeding its obligation by a larger percentage than any other material type.

Covid-19 impact

‘Alongside reaching its highest recycling rate on record, the industry has exceeded its obligated targets by more than 30 000 tonnes – a notable increase year-on-year and considerably higher than any other material type,’ comments Rick Hindley, executive director at industry body Alupro. The increase is not only ‘a direct impact’ of Covid-19 and the resulting national lockdowns, he says, but also suggests increased public awareness about the widespread benefits of best practice aluminium recycling.

‘Despite the challenges of the pandemic, we have continued to run our highly successful MetalMatters and Every Can Counts behavioural change programmes across multiple locations nationwide,’ Hindley adds. ‘Both have proven instrumental in engaging with householders about how quick, simple and beneficial it is to recycle aluminium packaging.’

New goals

Looking to the first quarter of 2021, Alupro expects the continuing impact of Covuid-19 (and further restrictions) to drive even higher aluminium packaging recycling rates. ‘However, in line with the predicted return to work and schools, it’s important that we switch our positive habits from kerbside to on-the-go systems – this will prove instrumental to not only meeting obligated targets for 2021, but also realising our ambition of 100% recycling rates across the UK,’ it stresses.

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