1. Overview
  2. North America
  3. Europe
  4. Asia

Metal cans are the most recycled beverage and food containers in the world. They are completely and infinitely recyclable because aluminum and steel maintain their inherent properties throughout the recycling process. That is why they can be endlessly recycled into new metal products such as bicycles, bridges or cans. Recycling metals reduces the demand for primary resources and the need to mine bauxite or iron ore. Aluminum and iron are the third and fourth most abundant elements on Earth.

Recycling also saves large amounts of energy. Using recycled aluminum requires only 5 percent of the energy needed to produce primary aluminum and reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 95 percent. Recycling steel provides similar benefits, saving 74 percent of the energy required to produce primary steel. Recycling rates therefore have a major influence on the environmental footprint of metal packaging. The unique economic and environmental benefits of metal recycling play a vital role in making our world more resource efficient, creating jobs and protecting our climate.

Recycling programs depend on reliable markets for recycled materials and sufficient revenues to offset costs for collection and processing. Metal cans are by far the most valuable beverage containers in the recycling stream. In fact, metal cans often subsidize the recycling of other packages that have little or no value. The high demand for used metal packaging and an efficient recycling infrastructure for cans make it possible for a beverage can to be recycled and back on the store shelf in about 60 days. The economic value is also the main reason that nearly 75 percent of all aluminum and more than 80 percent of all steel ever produced is still in use today.

In some countries, metal packaging recycling rates are close to or even above 90 percent. However, collection systems in other countries are not performing as well. There is a tremendous amount of variation in collection systems because they are primarily managed at the local level. Many programs have failed to keep pace with changes in material markets, collection and sorting techniques and with consumer awareness. The specific collection system weaknesses in each location must be addressed in that region.

Region Aluminum
Beverage Can
North America 67%
Europe 68%
Brazil 98%
China 90%*
Argentina 91%
*   includes unregistered collection
** no data available


Supplier Perspective

John Gardner
Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer,

Novelis committed itself to increase the recycled metal content in its own aluminum from 33 percent in 2010 to 80 percent by 2020. How do you plan to achieve that goal and what do you expect Ball to do in order to get there?

Ball is a key partner for Novelis in our joint sustainability efforts. From increasing the recycling rates of our products to minimizing the carbon footprint of the can, we are working together to find innovative ways to address the sustainability challenges of today and tomorrow. We know that the benefits of these efforts will be realized for not only our companies, but also our customers. Never before has collaboration between the members of our supply chain been more important.

We look forward to continued strengthening of our sustainability partnership with Ball, particularly on efforts to increase post-consumer recycling, innovation and increased dialogue with consumers, NGOs and other stakeholders on sustainability issues.

The recycling rate for aluminum beverage cans in North America was at 67 percent and the rate for steel packaging at 71 percent in 2012. Over the past decades, these numbers have been rising continuously. However, there are many challenges and opportunities to further increase packaging recycling rates in North America. Therefore, Ball supports a number of recycling programs in North America and works with industry partners to achieve the 75 percent recycling rate goal for beverage cans set by the Aluminum Association in 2008.

For example, Ball supports the Curbside Value Partnership, a nonprofit organization designed to grow participation in curbside recycling programs nationwide. Together with industry partners, haulers, materials recovery facilities and governmental authorities, CVP identifies solutions to improving curbside recycling programs through education and data analysis. CVP’s goal is to launch and study education programs to increase participation in community curbside programs, while striving to make them more profitable and sustainable. CVP provides free education tools and resources for communities to design, implement and measure the success of campaigns. Since 2005, four states and 27 localities have partnered with CVP, reaching millions of households. CVP partners have experienced an average 23 percent increase in recycling volume and an 18 percent increase in participation.

Ball’s North American plants and headquarters participate in the annualGreat American Can Roundup” Industry Challenge, a grassroots effort to demonstrate the importance of recycling in our communities. In 2011, 31 Ball facilities recycled almost 60,000 pounds of aluminum cans, raising approximately $60,000 for a variety of charities and schools.

As a Colorado-based company, Ball is a major sponsor of Colorado Association for Recycling (CAFR) and its efforts to increase recycling in the state. Ball co-hosted two forums with CAFR, "Implementing Recycling in the Green Economy," an event held to educate Colorado communities on recycling collection best practices. Furthermore, Ball co-sponsors the annual CAFR Summit for Recycling.

Ball supports various sustainability initiatives at the University of Colorado, the “Green on the Screen” contest, amongst others. During this digital media contest, held as a partnership between Ball Corporation and the University of Colorado Environmental Center, students use their creative skills, coupled with digital technology, to promote sustainability on campus. The focus of the contest in 2011 was to promote recycling of aluminum and how it ties into the campus Zero Waste Goal of 90 percent landfill diversion by 2020. Various entries are available online.

We also collaborate with various customers on innovative recycling programs. Together with our customer MillerCoors Brewing Company, for example, Ball jointly supports a drop-off recycling center in Golden, Colorado.


Priority in Action

Our Findlay, Ohio, plant piloted a recycling scholarship contest at a regional high school in 2011. The contest involved offering five $2,000 scholarships to those senior students that collected the most cans in a six-month period. Ball employees visited the school during the contest and explained the benefits of recycling. In November, participants brought their used beverage cans to our plant where the cans were weighed and the six winners announced. There were 34 students who participated and they collected 5,740 pounds of cans. In 2012, we will be opening the contest to all surrounding schools in Hancock County to involve even more students in recycling.

As part of the national “Great American Can Roundup”, several Ball plants have been successfully collecting cans from local schools for several years. Adding the scholarship helped increase interest in recycling. Our Findlay plant developed guidelines for other Ball plants that would like to organize similar events. In 2012, three Ball plants are going to host a recycling scholarship contest.


The average recycling rate for aluminum beverage cans was at 68 percent and at 74 percent for steel packaging in 2011. With 9.5 billion cans in 2011, the United Kingdom (U.K.) is Europe’s largest single can market. Yet the recovery of metal cans has proved stubbornly low. To address this, the industry set a goal to increase beverage can collection rates from 54 percent in 2010 to 75 percent by 2017.

While 97 percent of all U.K. municipalities provide metal collection via curbside schemes, only about 40 percent of the available metal was captured. Ball initiated a project to better understand and address why participation was lacking. The findings were surprising: people were seeking reassurance that their effort to recycle really makes a difference. Ball and its partners crafted an innovative communication campaign to alleviate those engagement barriers: metalmatters.

The program was tested for eight weeks in 2011 to some 60,000 households and as a result, metal packaging recycling increased by 13 percent on average. During 2012/2013 the program aims to reach 2 million additional households in Ireland and the U.K. metalmatters received the Environmental Excellence Award for the Best Communication Campaign in 2011 by the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management.

Every Can Counts (ECC), a partnership between beverage can manufacturers and the aluminum and steel packaging and recycling industries in the U.K., aims to enable and encourage consumers to recycle cans when away from home. About 30 percent of all beverage cans sold in the U.K. annually are consumed outside the home. At the end of 2011, nearly 700 organizations were registered with the program, with almost 5,000 ECC-branded collection points at over 1,900 individual sites. ECC helped collect 51 million used beverage cans in 2011. This equates to 774 tons of aluminum and steel collected and around 5,800 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions avoided.

Based on the success story of Every Can Counts in the U.K., Ball and partners launched a similar program in 2010 in France. “chaque canette compte” (CCC) aims to increase recycling rates of beverage cans when consumed away from home– whether it be at work or other “on the go” locations. Through CCC, more than 2,000 can collection boxes and advertising materials have been distributed to numerous organizations. During 2011, CCC supported 22 events such as the 24 Hours of Le Mans race. At the end of 2011, 290 participating sites and 15 collection partners supported the program and collected more than one million used beverage cans.

Meanwhile, the every can counts program has been expanded to Austria (“jede dose zählt”), Hungary and Romania with more countries to be covered in the future.

When Ball opened beverage can plants in Poland and Serbia, recycling programs were established for each country. In Poland we founded the recal foundation. Its mission is to inform and educate consumers on the advantages of recycling, increase environmental awareness and to instill recycling as a daily habit. recal contributed to the increase in beverage can recycling from 2 percent in 1995 to 72.5 percent in 2010.

recal started a cooperation with TAFISA, The Association For International Sport for All in 2010. The main goal of this cooperation is to develop innovative concepts to connect sports with environmental protection. For example, TAFISA, recal and the Polish Ministry for Sport and Tourism have invited sport schools across the country to share best practices on how they protect the environment. The best initiatives received an award and were described in a booklet so that all schools across the country could learn how to become more green. Other joint projects are described online.

The recan fund was founded in Serbia when Ball opened its beverage can plant in Belgrade in 2005. Its mission is similar to the mission of recal in Poland. In 2011, the recan fund and the Serbian branch of TAFISA, developed campaigns to promote a healthy way of living and environmental stewardship. Through this new cooperation, recan is able to promote recycling and antilittering among sportspersons. For example, recan supported the recycling efforts at Belgrade’s Coca-Cola bicycle event in May 2011.

Ball started the recycling organization recan in 2004 to support and improve the collection of used beverage cans in Poland. At the end of 2011, the organization operated four recycling centers, collecting approximately 10,000 metric tons of cans per year. recan cooperates closely with regional waste recycling companies, local scrap dealers, retail companies, the recal foundation and other partner organizations.

Priority in Action 

The recal foundation, in cooperation with the Polish Ministry of Sports and Tourism, developed the environmental awareness campaign, “Cans for Balls.” The idea is to connect two important aspects of sustainable development – sports and resource conservation. In light of the upcoming 2012 European Soccer Championships in Poland, numerous public sport fields were built in communities, the so-called “Orliks.”

recal established a communication campaign for Orliks around how players can protect the environment by recycling beverage cans while doing something good for their Orlik at the same time. As an incentive to participate in recycling, the collected cans are sold and the revenues are used for buying sports equipment for the users of the Orliks.

recal, together with the recan recovery organization, provides containers for the collection of used beverage cans and recan is regularly emptying the containers, selling the collected cans to aluminum producers and then making sports equipment available to the Orliks. During the pilot phase in 2011, 20 Orliks participated in the program. The program will be rolled out to more locations in 2012.


Although beverage can recycling rates in China are very high (estimated at 90 percent for aluminum cans, 75 percent for steel packaging) the environmental benefits of recycling are not very well known. That is why Ball launched recan Asia in 2007 to create programs to educate consumers, especially children, about the positive impacts of recycling.

recan Asia also conducted research about the behavioral aspects of consumer waste disposal so that the most effective consumer messaging and education campaigns can be developed.

Priority in Action

recan Asia cooperated with the Qingdao Association for Science and Technology and COFCO Coca-Cola Beverages (Shandong) Ltd. on an environmental education program in Qingdao, China. The program ran from April 2011 to April 2012, and aimed at informing consumers about the sustainable characteristics of beverage cans and the benefits of recycling.

Children at schools, two of the city’s science and technology museums and in a youth center, were able to watch a video about the life cycle of cans, including details about the recycling process. At the end of 2011, more than 21,000 people had viewed the video.

In May 2010, recan Asia organized a can-painting contest in the China National Children's Center in Beijing. The subject of the contest was “Caring for the Earth – Protect the Future.” About 50 children dealt creatively with various actions intended to help preserve the environment.