North America

updated-nuggets-(2).jpgIn 2018, the North American recycling rate for aluminum beverage cans was 50%. While this number continues to be much higher compared with other packaging substrates, many challenges and opportunities exist as we work to increase packaging recycling rates further.

According to a 2016 study commissioned by the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, curbside recycling programs, typically the most convenient program for consumers, are available to 73 percent of the U.S. population, with 53 percent of the population having curbside recycling “automatically” provided at their home, while the other 20 percent has a type of subscription or opt-in recycling program available. These access rates need to increase and several other parameters need to be improved simultaneously. For example, participation rates need to increase, large roll-carts should replace smaller bins, and residents have to be educated about what and how to recycle.


The Recycling Partnership

The Recycling Partnership’s mission is to educate, inspire and empower stakeholders to strategically strengthen recycling in the U.S. Its broad spectrum of allied partners focus on driving quantity in the recycled materials stream. The partnership has reached more than 29 million households since 2014, supported more than 583 communities, delivered more than 400,000 new recycling carts, achieved 10-point reductions in targeted contamination rates, and diverted 68,000 additional tons of recycled materials. This equates to avoiding 164,000 metric tons of GHG emissions, while adding jobs in the respective regions and building a pipeline of recovered materials for various industries.

In 2017, The Recycling Partnership worked with the City of Denver, which is close to Ball’s headquarters. Denver’s residential recycling program is already outperforming the national average in terms of quality of material collected, but there is more material to be recovered. The goal of the three-month pilot was to find the best way to increase the amount of recyclables that residents put in their recycling carts, starting with a focus on aluminum and steel cans. An education program for 4,000 pilot households was implemented and on-the-ground recycling experts tagged trash carts with an information card that instructed residents to put cans in their recycling carts. Residents also received the message through mailers, signs and social media.

The pilot results were tremendous—the City of Denver saw a 25 percent increase in can recycling. As a result, Ball and other can makers are funding the city-wide roll-out (172,000 households) of the campaign in 2018, which will again include capture rate studies to quantify the impacts of the can-specific intervention. If the entire city could achieve the same results, an additional 225 metric tons of used beverage cans would be recovered, saving approximately 1,200 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.


Ball also supports various regional and state nonprofit recycling organizations that aim to promote and enhance recycling in the U.S. For example:
  • The Southeast Recycling Development Council (SERDC) works to unite industry, government, and non-government organizations to promote sustainable recycling in 11 states in the southeastern U.S., including Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia, where Ball operates manufacturing plants.
  • The Colorado Association for Recycling (CAFR) is a nonprofit organization that actively works to promote and encourage recycling through educational programs for Colorado residents, local governments, businesses and elected officials.
  • Ball is a member of STAR, the State of Texas Alliance for Recycling. STAR builds and supports end markets by coordinating stakeholders to find common ground through information sharing and partnerships that get recyclable materials to market. Through data-driven advocacy, STAR is shaping and defining the future of materials management in Texas.
Other examples of how Ball supports recycling in the communities where we operate include:
  • The 2016-2017 Great American Can Roundup (GACR) School Challenge engaged more than 39,000 students from 40 states, diverting more than 3 million aluminum cans. Schools competing in the GACR School Challenge raised more than $44,000 for future activities and local charities.
  • As part of the annual GACR Industry Challenge, can manufacturers and aluminum suppliers engage their U.S. facilities and surrounding communities to collect cans. In 2016, 5.9 million beverage cans were collected, raising $80,000 for local charities. Ball employees collected more than 4.2 million cans for the industry challenge, raising more than $32,000 for charities in the communities where we operate.
  • Several Ball facilities sponsor a recycling scholarship contest, which offers five $2,000 scholarships to high school seniors who collect the most cans in a six-month period. For example, five schools near our Findlay, Ohio, plant collected 554,000 cans in 2015. During the contest, Ball employees visited the schools and explained the benefits of recycling.
  • Ball also supports the University of Colorado and some of its sustainability programs, including the “Green on the Screen” contest. During this digital media contest, a partnership between Ball and the University of Colorado Environmental Center, students use their creative skills and digital technology to promote sustainability on campus. The focus of the contest is to promote aluminum recycling and raise awareness on how it ties into the school’s zero waste goal of 90 percent landfill diversion by 2020.