According to the latest data (Warsaw, May 11, 2020), the aluminium drink can recycling rate was over 80.5% in Poland during 2018. It’s another year where the level exceeded 80%, well-beyond the EU requirement of 51%. This exceptional and stable result makes aluminium packaging the leader in terms of recycling, which was achieved thanks to an effectively functioning commercial collection system, and the new local regulations on extended producer responsibility should take into account well-functioning and tested solutions developed by the aluminium industry.
The aluminium beverage can is currently the most recycled packaging waste in Poland. This achievement was possible thanks to a nationwide network of collection points and scrap yards buying beverage cans from consumers. It’s a self-financing system that is economically and environmentally effective. The aluminium industry’s involvement in the recycling process has also significantly contributed to this great result. Put simply, domestic can-makers in cooperation with aluminium suppliers are successfully closing the recycling loop.
In accordance with EU regulations, an entrepreneur introducing packaging to the market covers the costs of collecting, transporting, cleaning, and, in extreme cases, finance their recycling. Aluminium packaging, which is the most valuable secondary raw material in municipal waste, does not generate additional costs and there is no need to pay extra for its processing. In the case of aluminium, the value of the raw material collected covers all related costs. The special advantage of this metal should be taken into account when developing Polish Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) regulations the government is currently producing.
“We are aware that it is necessary to introduce new solutions that will ensure compliance with ambitious EU recycling levels. At the same time, as an industry that has been working hard for years to achieve the current levels of aluminium can recycling, we expect the new regulations to incorporate the system that is already effective today at all legal, operational, and financial levels,” said Bartomiej Wojdyło, acting sustainability director of CANPACK Group and RECAL Foundation board member.
One of the solutions discussed is the introduction of a deposit on beverage packaging, which can contribute to raising the overall levels of packaging waste recycling. When designing the deposit system for beverage packaging, it should be remembered that surpluses generated from the sale of valuable raw materials cannot financially support other packaging. The introduction of a deposit system for all packaging in Poland that is being considered today should first apply to packaging that is difficult to separate from the household waste stream, because it is often the only way to achieve the required recovery levels.
“The RECAL Foundation, representing the aluminium packaging recovery industry, is of the opinion that the DRS should first be introduced for packaging where it is the shortest and perhaps the only way to achieve the required levels of recovery,” – President of the RECAL Foundation Board Jacek Wodzisławiski said. “The system already being implemented should assume the possibility of future extensions to other packaging and be treated as a supplement to the Extended Producer Responsibility system,” Jacek Wodzisławski added. Fees incurred by producers should cover the costs of processing a type of packaging so that the system is effective. Lower costs will increase the amount of mono-material packaging or those easy to process, such as aluminium beverage cans. Such a solution will significantly increase the importance of environmentally-friendly packaging for subsequent processing.