Increased consumption in 2019 led to a record number of 36.5 billion cans being recycled, or 488,000 tons of aluminium, saving 4 million tonnes CO2.
A new report by Metal Packaging Europe and European Aluminium shows that the overall recycling rate for aluminium beverage cans in the European Union1, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland remained stable in 2019 at 76% (75.8%). With a growing can consumption, the total amount of aluminium recycled from cans reached a record level of 488,000 tonnes and represents a total Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions saving of 4 million tonnes of CO2 (equivalent to the amount of GHG emissions produced by a European town of 440,000 inhabitants like Bratislava, Tallinn or Murcia2.)
Can manufacturers (members of Metal Packaging Europe) and their aluminium suppliers (members of European Aluminium) welcomed the new result but say that with some extra effort, the recycling rates could go even higher. In March 2021, the two industry associations launched their joint Roadmap towards 100% can recycling by the year 2030. This ambitious target can only be reached if existing packaging collection systems in Europe are further improved or replaced by well-designed deposit return systems for beverage cans and other relevant beverage containers.
“With an increasing demand for fully circular packaging systems, the aluminium beverage can, which is made from an endlessly recyclable material, is the ideal alternative to less sustainable packaging options,” said Léonie Knox-Peebles, CEO of Metal Packaging Europe. “We now need to work together to make sure that even more used cans are correctly disposed of and recycled so that we reach our ambitious 2030 goal. We are confident that the credentials highlighted in our Metal Recycles Forever logo will incite consumers to do just that.”
“We would like to see more countries moving towards modern and well-designed deposit return systems, allowing for an optimal use of the high scrap value and quality of the collected aluminium cans,” Maarten Labberton, Director Packaging Group at European Aluminium, stressed. “Although used cans are also recycled into a wide range of other valuable end-use products like bikes or electric vehicles, the most efficient solution is to use them again for the production of new cans. No other type of beverage packaging can reach such high recycling rates whilst using so little primary material, resulting in product circularity as well as carbon emissions reductions.”
Here is a detailed overview of aluminium drink can recycling rates by country in 2019. Recycling rates have been calculated on the basis of the present EU reporting rules.
2019 European aluminium beverage can recycling rates (EU28 + Iceland, Norway & Switzerland), sources: EPR schemes (Green Dot, others), Deposit Return Systems (cans), EUROSTAT (aluminium/metal packaging), industry reports, PRN notes (UK)
* Including the United Kingdom for the reporting year 2019
** If a yearly GHG emission of 9,2 tonnes is assumed per EU citizen as used in the Product Environmental Footprint methodology, see Normalisation method and data for Environmental Footprints – Deliverable 2 of the AA Environmental Footprint and Material Efficiency Support for Product Policy (No. 70307/2012/ENV.C.1/635340)