Report from the Aluminum Association and the Can Manufacturers Institute: Metal Remains the Recycling Champ

Consumer recycling rates of beverage containers: 46.1% aluminum, 20.7% plastic, 39.6% glass. Average recycled content of beverage containers: 73% aluminum, 6% plastic, 23% glass. Value per ton of recyclable material: $1,210 Aluminum, $237 Plastic, -$21 Glass.
Tuesday, June 1, 2021

With metal packaging as our primary product, sustainability is ingrained in our business and will remain a core value for our Company moving forward. Through our Twentyby30 program, we are working with industry partners to educate our supply chain about how the format’s high recyclability and recycling rates support collective goals to advance the Circular Economy. A recent report from the Aluminum Association and the Can Manufacturers Institute helps tell this story, using the latest industry data to reinforce the strengths of aluminum beverage cans. 

The Aluminum Can Advantage: Sustainability Key Performance Indicators 2020 reveals that metal has maintained its industry-leading position as the most recycled beverage package in the world. In fact, data shows that consumers recycle aluminum cans at nearly double the rate of plastic bottles—a staggering discrepancy. When properly recovered, those used beverage cans (UBCs) fall within a closed-loop recycling process that allows for repeated—and infinite—recycling. Today, the average aluminum can in the United States contains 73 percent recycled content, compared to less than 6 percent for plastic (PET) bottles, demonstrating the staying power of the material and its viability for reuse.

The report also highlighted the following noteworthy stats for metal:

  • Using recycled aluminum for beverage can production saves more than 90 percent of the energy needed to produce a beverage can with new, or primary, aluminum.
  • Aluminum is a high-value material, cashing in at $1,210 per ton (vs. $237 per ton for PET bottles) and actually provides a stream of income critical for the recycling system to even operate. 
  • The full aluminum can value chain – can manufacturers, consumers, aluminum recyclers, beverage brands, and more – should be proud of the aluminum beverage can’s industry-leading U.S. recycling rate that averaged above 51 percent over the past 10 years.

While the recycling rate of aluminum cans remains higher than competing forms of packaging, the industry still has work to do for all UBCs to achieve their maximum impact. In 2019, 50 billion cans – more than $810 million worth of aluminum – were diverted from the recycling stream and could otherwise have been responsibly recycled and made into new cans. This missed opportunity reveals the value of a greater focus on keeping UBCs out of landfills and is one of the drivers for Crown’s recent work with CMI and The Recycling Partnership to help fund can recapture equipment at material recovery facilities (MRFs).

To learn more about aluminum’s recycling credentials and read the complete report, visit: https://www.aluminum.org/sites/default/files/KPI_Report_Dec2020.pdf