There are several key sustainability advantages of metal packaging:
Supports the Circular Economy.
From every angle, our primary materials - steel and aluminum - are inherently circular. At their origin, they respectively represent more than 5% and 8% of the earth’s crust, ranking them among the most abundant resources in the world (Source).
These natural elements maintain their properties forever. In other words, once metal enters the material-to-material loop, where it gets recycled again and again, it will always be available for future use. This constant reuse into new containers or other metal products saves raw materials and energy and reduces CO₂ emissions.
- 80% of all steel and aluminum ever produced is still available today (Source).
- Once produced, metal never needs to be downgraded to less demanding uses after recycling. It can take as few as 60 days for recycled beverage cans to return to store shelves –as new beverage cans (Source).
- 100% of metal scrap created in the production process is recycled back into production (Source).
The metal packaging industry is a perfect example of the Circular Economy at work. Learn more about the circularity of aluminum beverage cans and our effort to advance our Circularity Strategy throughout our value chain here.
Has unmatched recycling rates around the world.
Recycling metal minimizes the use of Earth’s resources and the level of greenhouse gas emissions used in subsequent production. The well-established recycling infrastructure for metal packaging around the world has contributed to its high recycling rates. Aluminum and steel are also the most valuable of all major recycled materials, enabling them to more than pay for the cost of their own collection and effectively subsidize the recycling of other, less valuable materials.
Today, 80.5% of steel packaging and 74.5% of aluminum beverage cans are recycled in Europe. The industry is working toward an average European metal packaging recycling rate of 80% by the end of 2020 (Source). The U.S. has achieved recycling rates of 49.8% for aluminum (Source) and 70% for steel (Source).
As part of our 2030 sustainability goals, we will build on this strong foundation and partner with industry associations to drive recycling rates higher and higher. Part of this involves continuing to educate consumers about the sustainable qualities of metal and how they can do their part to ensure the material makes its way through the recycling stream. We will also work with our suppliers and other industry partners to maintain or improve the industry-wide recycled content average.
- The beverage can is the most recycled drinks package in the world (Source).
- The average recycled content for aluminum cans produced in the U.S. is 73% (Source).
- Recycling aluminum saves more than 90% of the energy needed to make new aluminum (Source).
- Recycling steel saves up to 74% of the energy used to produce virgin steel (Source).
Reduces food waste and spoilage.
Packaging—and metal packaging, in particular—makes a considerable difference in overcoming one of the greatest issues facing our planet: food insecurity. In some regions of the world, food shortages are a constant threat, and as populations increase, the problem will continue to worsen.
The inherent benefits of metal make it an ideal weapon to combat food waste. Better than any other packaging format, cans preserve their contents and help products achieve long shelf lives, significantly reducing the risk of food spoiling before it is consumed. The high temperatures of retort cooking effectively sterilize food in cans, which is critical to maintaining the safety of those products without preservatives, refrigeration or freezing. Once the packaging process is complete, it is the metal can that most effectively continues to preserve the food it contains. Foods typically degrade through extended exposure to external influences like air or sunlight. Metal is the only container material that completely prevents light and oxygen from infiltrating the package, offering excellent barrier properties and extending product life.
- The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations indicates that 1.3 billion tons of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally per year— more than 350 pounds of food for every person on the planet.
- Packaging produce in metal cans rather than packing it for refrigeration or freezing saves over 1 billion liters of food per year.*
- If the entire fruit and vegetable supply in the U.S. was canned, rather than packaged for refrigeration or freezing, an estimated 7 million metric tons of food would be saved. That is equivalent to about 22 million metric tons of CO₂.*
For additional information about the sustainability of metal packaging, visit our 2019 Sustainability Report.
*Source: “Effects of Metal Packaging on Energy and Food Waste” – University of Delaware and CROWN Packaging Technology