Packaging Sustainability

Metal cans are a sustainable and smart packaging solution for beverages, food and aerosols. Here are a few reasons why:
  • Cans are 100 percent recyclable and can be recycled infinitely with no loss of quality
  • Cans are the most recycled food and beverage containers in the world
  • Cans have the highest scrap value, subsidizing the collection and recycling of other materials
  • Cans are recycled through a well-established and efficient infrastructure
  • Cans can be recycled and returned to a store shelf as a new can in just 60 days
  • Cans are stackable and have a high cubic efficiency, making them cost-effective to transport
  • Cans are lightweight, unbreakable and provide superior product protection
  • Cans chill faster and stay colder longer


Metal cans are produced using abundant and recycled materials. Because the earth’s crust consists of approximately eight percent aluminum, it is the third most common element. Steel is made from iron-ore, limestone and coking coal, three very common natural resources. Iron is the fourth most plentiful element.

Approximately 60 percent of all aluminum cans are recycled globally. Steel packaging can be separated easily from other waste via magnets and therefore achieves a global recycling rate of 68 percent. With these global rates, the can is the world’s most recycled packaging product.

Because metals are 100 percent and infinitely recyclable, they can be reused in various applications to become new products again and again. Metal recycling has been around as long as metals have existed. In fact, nearly 75 percent of all aluminum and 80 to 90 percent of all steel ever produced is still in use today. Because the recycling infrastructure is well established, a recycled aluminum package can be back on the store shelf in as little as 60 days.

To understand metal packaging’s environmental performance and its role in a circular economy, you must consider its entire life cycle. That is why Ball has been involved in life cycle assessments since the mid-1980s.



Packaging is only a small fraction of the overall waste generated in the household, commercial and industrial sectors. However, it is very visible and, in a world of scarce resources, attracts attention from consumers, the media and NGOs.

Food production and growing agricultural products that go into beverages requires significant resources, energy, water, time and money. If these products do not survive the journey from farm to table, all of those resources are wasted. Worldwide, an estimated 1.3 billion metric tons of food is wasted each year.

Food supply makes up about 10 percent of the total energy use, 50 percent of land use and 80 percent of all freshwater consumed in the U.S. Forty percent of that food, worth $165 billion each year, is never eaten. Most uneaten food is landfilled, representing the single largest component of municipal solid waste and approximately 25 percent of U.S. methane emissions (a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide).


Though packaging is not the only answer to this fundamental problem, it is part of a multifaceted solution as it helps reduce food loss and waste in the supply chain. Packaging plays a critical role in delivering products to consumers safely, conveniently and in perfect condition. Packaging protects and preserves food, beverages and other products as they move through supply chains. Well-designed packaging meets the product’s requirements while minimizing the economic and environmental impacts of the product and its package.

Metal packaging, in particular, prevents physical damage, protects the contents from the effects of oxygen and contaminants and maintains the nutritional value while providing convenience, portion control, space for consumer messaging and more efficient logistics.

Overall, packaging protects far more resources than it uses. The Industry Council for Packaging and the Environment (INCPEN) estimates that of all the energy used for one person’s weekly food consumption, only 6.5 percent can be attributed to primary packaging and 51 percent to food supply. The holistic debate about packaging and the products it protects presents considerable opportunities for packaging and can help focus the debate about a product’s environmental impacts on what matters most.

Packaging also significantly increases a product’s shelf life, which helps reduce food waste, a significant environmental and economic problem. For example, an estimated 42 percent of fresh peaches are lost at the consumer stage in the U.S., primarily due to spoilage. For canned peaches, only 9 percent of the product spoils, saving significant resources while providing the same nutritional value.


To further enhance and promote metal packaging’s sustainability credentials, Ball collaborates with many industry partners in various ways. For example, we participated in the development of the "Global Protocol on Packaging Sustainability 2.0" (GPPS), published by the Consumer Goods Forum. The GPPS ensures a common language and metrics that enable informed discussions about packaging and sustainability.

Another example of how Ball engages with industry and non-industry partners is the Soft Drinks Sustainability Roadmap in the United Kingdom, of which we are a founding member. The roadmap identifies opportunities for businesses in the soft drink supply chain to enhance the sector’s sustainability by using resources more efficiently, optimizing packaging design, and reducing carbon emissions and costs.

We are also a member of various organizations that advance the sustainability credentials of packaging.
Mike Feldser
Internal Perspective

"Our customers are especially interested in the sustainability performance of Ball and our food and household packaging products. Thanks to our focus on innovation and continuous improvement, we’re able to provide them with solutions that help them succeed."

Since we rolled out the Big 6, our operational sustainability priorities, plants in the Food and Household Packaging Products business have truly embraced sustainability and recognize it as part of everyone’s job and how we do business at Ball. In fact, all but one North American FHP plant achieved zero-waste-to-landfill status by year-end 2013. Sixty-three percent of all the waste we generated in 2008 was buried in landfills versus only 13 percent in 2013. Each of these is a testament to our employees’ dedication.

Historically, most of our predominantly smaller-sized food can customers did not have the resources to work with Ball on sustainability issues. However, since we became a major player in the global aerosol can market and deal with multiple global consumer good companies, the way we utilize our unique sustainability story with our customer base has changed considerably. Our customers are especially interested in the sustainability performance of Ball and our food and household packaging products. Thanks to our focus on innovation and continuous improvement, we’re able to provide them with solutions that help them succeed. For example, our 10 percent lighter aerosol can with recycled material, which we launched in Europe during 2013, caught everyone’s attention. We are excited to further lightweight that can and work with our customers to provide them with unique and sustainable packaging solutions.

- Mike Feldser, former Senior Vice President, Chief Operating Officer, Global Metal Food & Household Products Packaging

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