Ball

Recycling

TOWARD 100% REAL RECYCLING

The global recycling rate for aluminum beverage cans stands at 69%, making them the world’s most recycled beverage container. But there are significant regional variations: in Brazil, for instance, the rate is 97%, while the average across Europe is 75% and in the U.S. it is 50%. These figures are much better than for other beverage and personal care packaging materials, but they are still not good enough. If aluminum cans are to be a perfect fit for a circular economy, then the recycling rate needs to be close to 100%. We believe that is possible by 2030.

Used beverage cans are around 10 times more valuable than glass, and around six times more valuable than clear PET. Their clean, homogenous design, using a material that is endlessly recyclable through simple remelting, means that the recycling of used beverage cans is a profitable activity. Because used cans are so sought-after – not only to make new cans, but also to make other aluminum products – if a can is collected, then it will certainly get recycled and stay in the material loop, in contrast to other packaging materials.
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The key for cans, therefore, lies not in inventing new recycling processes, nor through better product design, but by ensuring that the number of cans collected is increased through a focus on smarter collection infrastructure (including when people are on the go), improving sorting centers (which need to be updated with the right number and right size of eddy current sorting machines to extract the most valuable material from the stream), and making it easier for consumers to recycle.

There is certainly an opportunity to make changes to curbside collection systems so households can more conveniently sort materials at home. While curbside collection can be upgraded in many regions, especially in the U.S., there is also a significant need to address the widespread lack of infrastructure for can collection on public transportation, in offices, and at sporting and music events.

These venues need to encourage the greater accessibility of recycling bins to allow consumers to separate waste as they throw it away. Perhaps the most pressing requirement is for the greater availability of clearly labeled double or even triple bins in public places that offer separate collection of recyclables and beverage packaging. This needs to become commonplace in all main streets, public places, and in offices and at events – and must be backed up with strong communications campaigns. These extra collection points will require funding, and one of the ways to keep costs low for the industry is to rely on the value of materials recovered more than on increasing EPR fees.

In developing countries, informal collection of cans by individuals and small-time operators is already achieving close to 100% recycling rates in multiple regions. This can be an effective way of collecting valuable recyclables in some parts of the world (see ‘supporting the informal sector in Myanmar’). The best way to help such collectors is to ensure a safe workplace and efficient transportation of the separated materials, and to educate the public about the advantages of beverage can recycling so people can support the informal sector by providing easy access to used beverage cans.

METAL RECYCLES FOREVER

Launched in 2014, the Metal Recycles Forever logo has proven to be one of the most striking and effective ways of marketing the benefits of aluminum cans around the world.

Using just three words and a closed loop symbol, the logo conveys in the simplest terms the fact that metals are infinitely recyclable.


Research carried out in 2019 in the U.S., UK, Brazil and Spain found that consumers in each country are ”compelled” by aluminum’s infinite recyclability, which resonates “strongly” with them, and in particular are “very drawn” to the statistic that 75% of aluminum ever produced is still in use today.
Customer Feature: Jimmy's Iced Coffee
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 “In the past couple of years, we’ve been highlighted to the societal need for a reduction in single-use plastic. As such, we’ve gone to task on looking at extending our product range into a plastic free alternative and have landed on aluminium vessels being the best alternative.

Plastic pollution is a major topic, particularly among the younger generation following the impact of David Attenborough’s documentaries. Consumers are calling upon brands to be accountable for the sustainability of their supply chains and their products. The decision to become plastic free is not only important to our consumer base, it is a fundamental change that is integral to upholding Jimmy’s values and beachside origins.

Whilst there are types of plastic that are recyclable, it can be confusing what can and can’t be recycled, especially when you’re on-the-go. It’s not like that with cans. It’s easy and the vast majority know what bin to use. 

The infinitely recyclable nature of cans is critical to our social and PR messages in order to gain awareness and encourage recycling of our products.
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Every time we sample, we educate and inform consumers on the qualities of our ingredients, brand and packaging. This movement into cans will help drive awareness of the infinitely recyclable nature of aluminium and the benefits of this material over plastic.​"


- Luke Wilkes, Operational Director, Jimmy's Iced Coffee, United Kingdom

RECYCLING PROCESSES THAT REALLY WORK

There is no point in putting a lot of effort into collection and sorting if we then lose up to 20 to 30% of the material during the recycling process. This happens with some materials, but not with aluminum cans, which simply have to be remelted at 700 degrees Celsius.

Only around 1 to 2% of aluminum is lost when shredding the bales, and another 2 to 3% due to oxidation in the furnace. Total metal losses in the recycling process can be between 3 to 5%. When factoring in the recycling rate and the material losses in recycling, it is clear that, as we move toward near 100% collection, yields really matter. Once again, this demonstrates the true advantages of the aluminum can.

We believe there is an opportunity to increase can-to-can recycling. Today the remelted aluminum from used beverage cans is also used to make other aluminum products such as cars, building products or less recyclable packaging. As recycling rates increase and contamination decreases (e.g., through DRS), there will be greater opportunities to ensure that cans are recycled back into cans. We see this as an inherent competitive advantage of our material. Already the average recycled content in cans today far outweighs any other substrate.

BALL'S RECYCLING CAN CHALLENGE

Employee efforts in 2019 led directly to more than 31 metric tons of aluminum being collected and recycled. During the year, employee participation rates in our global Recycling Can Challenge campaign rose by 13% compared with 2018. Uptake of the campaign, which aims to inspire employees to take extra steps to promote the economic, environmental and social benefits of cans, was especially strong in Asia, Middle East and Africa. In total we invested more than $100,000 globally through our Recycling Can Challenge to help plants with their local efforts – a 20% increase on 2018.

North America

South America

EMEA

Asia