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Drinks can sustainability report

The attention on packaging's environmental impact has markedly heightened in recent months, putting increasing pressure on governments, brands and retailers to act. Media coverage has been predominantly focused on the marine impact of single use plastics, including plastic bottles, and as a result this has put pressure on other drinks packaging formats too.

It gets overlooked, surprisingly often, that there is already a ready-made solution for many drinks to switch to. It’s called the drinks can.

Living more sustainably

Packaging has a key role to play in helping society live more sustainably.

Importantly, it’s packaging that is actually recycled and can easily and cost effectively be transformed into new products that makes the difference. This recycling loop is a foundation for the circular economy where materials are continuously reused, and the drinks can is the perfect example of the circular economy already in action.

When an aluminium can reaches the end of its useful life, the material is never lost. It’s simply collected and recycled, over and over, with no loss of its inherent properties or quality, there’s no need to add virgin raw materials. Up to 75 per cent of all aluminium ever produced is still in use today (World Aluminium Association).

Let’s talk recycling targets and rates

The European Commission’s Circular Economy Package (CEP) sets common targets to increase recycling to prevent valuable resources from being lost in the recycling loop. It has set an overall packaging waste recycling target of 75 per cent by 2030 and an aluminium packaging recycling target of 85 per cent by 2030 to help drive the circular economy. The UK Government outlined new targets in 2017 for aluminium, challenging businesses to achieve 64 per cent by 2020 (Spring Budget 2017).

Aluminium drinks cans already contribute significantly to this overall recycling target. 72 per cent of all drinks cans were recycled in the UK in 2017 (Alupro).  Drinks cans have also recently been officially recognised as the most recycled drinks container in the world (Resource Recycling Systems (RRS)).  Once the aluminium is made it is resource efficient to use again and again; practical, as we already have the recycling systems in place; and cost effective, as aluminium has a high intrinsic value which makes the recycling infrastructure self-funding. We already have the capacity to recycle every drinks can in the UK market and more.

Having achieved the 72 per cent milestone in the UK for aluminium cans, the industry is now working towards an 85 per cent recycling rate by 2020 and 90% by 2030. Much of this will happen with the ongoing development around incineration bottom ash recovery, as well as developing the recycling infrastructure for on-the-go packaging (Alupro, 2018).

Download the full Sustainable Packaging 2018 whitepaper here.

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