Aluminum cans and glass bottles: which is the most sustainable beer packaging?

2021-11-16 16:52:54 By : Mr. Tieping Wu

November 11, 2021 is almost a press release

Well, according to a recent report by the Aluminum Association and the Cannery Manufacturers Association (CMI)—Aluminum Can Advantages: Key Performance Indicators for Sustainability in 2021—Compared with competing packaging types, aluminum beverage containers have a consistent Sustainability advantage. The report updated several key performance indicators (KPIs) for 2020 and found that consumers are recycling aluminum cans more than twice as fast as plastic (PET) bottles. The recycled content of aluminum beverage cans is 3 to 20 times higher than that of glass or PET bottles, and the value as a scrap is much higher, which makes aluminum a key driver of the financial viability of the U.S. recycling system. This year's report also introduced a brand new KPI, the closed loop rate, which measures the percentage of recycled material used to return to the same product-in this case a new beverage container. A two-page summary of the report is provided here. 

The report also shows that the consumer recycling rate of aluminum beverage cans declined slightly last year. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and other market disruptions, this rate has dropped from 46.1% in 2019 to 45.2% in 2020. Despite the decline in the ratio, the number of used beverage cans (UBC) recycled by the industry has actually increased by about 4 billion cans, reaching 46.7 billion cans by 2020. But with the increase in canned food sales last year, the ratio has declined. The 20-year average of consumer recycling rates is about 50%. 

The Aluminum Association supports a positive effort announced by CMI earlier to increase the recycling rate of aluminum cans in the next few decades from the current 45.2% to 70% in 2030; 80% by 2040, and 80% by 2050 Reach 90%. The association will work closely with CMI and our member companies to promote the creation of well-designed container storage systems and other measures to increase the recycling rate of aluminum cans through comprehensive efforts for many years. 

"Aluminum cans are still the most recyclable and recyclable beverage containers on the market today," said Raphael Thevenin, vice president of sales and marketing at Constellium and chairman of the Aluminum Association Can Plate Manufacturers Committee. "But the U.S. can recycling rate lags behind the rest of the world-causing unnecessary drag on the environment and the economy. These new U.S. recycling rate targets will promote actions inside and outside the industry to bring more cans back into the recycling stream." 

CMI President Robert Budway said: “CMI is proud that aluminum beverage cans continue to outperform their competitors in key sustainability indicators. “CMI beverage can manufacturers and aluminum can plate suppliers are committed to excellence in beverage cans. Continued efforts have been made on the basis of sustainability performance and this commitment has been demonstrated through the industry’s new recycling rate targets. Achieving these goals is not only important for the growth of the industry, but also beneficial to the environment and the economy. " 

The closed loop rate is a new KPI introduced this year that measures the percentage of recycled material used to return to the same product-in this case a new beverage container. To a certain extent, it is a measure of the quality of recycling. When products are recycled, the recycled materials can be used to make the same (closed loop recycling) or different, sometimes lower grade products (open loop recycling). Closed-loop recycling is the first choice, because generally recycled products maintain similar quality to the main material, and the process can be repeated over and over again. In contrast, open-loop recycling may cause material quality degradation through chemical changes or increased contamination of new products. 

Other key findings in the 2021 report include: 

Increasing the recycling rate of aluminum beverage cans will have a huge impact on the overall sustainability of the domestic aluminum industry. Earlier this year, the association released a new third-party life cycle assessment (LCA) report showing that the carbon footprint of aluminum cans manufactured in North America has fallen by nearly half in the past three decades. LCA also found that recycling a single tank can save 1.56 megajoules (MJ) of energy or 98.7 grams of carbon dioxide equivalent. This means that only 12 packs of aluminum cans can be recycled to save enough energy to provide about 3 miles of power for a typical passenger car. The energy saved by recycling aluminum beverage cans currently shipped to landfills in the United States each year can save the economy about $800 million, and is enough to provide more than 2 million households with electricity for a full year.

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