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U.S. aluminum can recycling reaches 57.4% in 2009

In 2009, Americans and the aluminum industry recycled nearly 55.5 billion aluminum cans, nearly 2.3 billion more than in 2008.


The Aluminum Association, the Can Manufacturers Institute (CMI), and the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) have announced the 2009 Used Beverage Container (UBC) recycling rate at 57.4%. This is the highest recycling rate of any beverage container in the U.S., these organizations report. In 2009, Americans and the aluminum industry recycled nearly 55.5 billion aluminum cans, nearly 2.3 billion more than in 2008.

"The aluminum can is infinitely recyclable," says Steve Larkin, president of The Aluminum Association. “A recycled can is able to be back on the store shelf in as little as 60 days—using 95 percent less energy and 95 percent less greenhouse gas emissions then creating a can from new metal.”

Remarks CMI president Robert Budway, “Aluminum cans continue to provide our customers and consumers with an exceptional environmental package of choice. The infinite recyclability of aluminum compounds its sustainable benefits.”

Adds Robin Wiener, ISRI president, “The scrap recycling industry continues to play a vital role in maintaining a steady supply of aluminum for America’s manufacturing economy while also being a strong environmental steward. In 2009, over 4.6 million metric tons of aluminum was processed by the U.S. scrap industry, saving the energy equivalent of 1.3 billion gallons of gasoline. The data shows that aluminum cans continue to be a valuable recyclable commodity.”

Choosing a beverage in an infinitely recyclable aluminum can and then making sure it ends up in the recycling bin is one of the easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint, the organizations claim. The aluminum can is said to be the only packaging material that more than covers the cost of collection and re-processing for itself. As the most valuable item in the consumer waste stream, it helps finance the collection and recycling of a wide range of other materials. Also, higher recycling rates ensure a steady supply of high-value recycled aluminum, which provides overall waste reduction and a significantly improved environmental impact.

The highest processed receipts in five years demonstrate that the aluminum industry continues its serious commitment to recycling. This additional effort resulted in the largest year-on-year percentage increase in the past 10 years, and the highest effective rate since 2000, according to 2009 UBC report.

Continues Larkin, “While we are pleased with the increase, we need all Americans to step-up their recycling efforts to assure the availability of the can and to reach the industry’s own goal of a 75-percent rate. To achieve this goal, the industry will continue to work with all partners in the supply chain to drive progress toward the most cost-effective, least intrusive means in realizing further gains in the rate.

Sustainability credentials

Today’s beverage can weighs only 0.466 oz, more than 15 % lighter than in 1993. Through engineering and technology advancements, the can continues to become lighter while delivering the same serving size and using fewer resources. There are 34.35 aluminum beverages to a pound.

According to The Aluminum Association, CMI, and ISRI, additional sustainability points on the beverage can include:

• The carbon footprint for aluminum cans has been reduced 44% over the last 17 years.

• Energy used to make aluminum cans has been reduced 30% over the last 17 years.

• The aluminum can has a 68% total recycled content, the highest of any beverage package material.

• Secondary aluminum production, which is produced from recycled beverage cans, generates 95% less Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG) emissions than primary production.

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