Beverage can scrap
Foto: BCME
Used beverage cans, ready for recycling


Aluminium beverage can recycling remains high at 73 %

The overall recycling rate for aluminium beverage cans in the European Union, UK, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland remained high in 2020 at 73 % (72.8 %). 

With a 3 % points drop compared to 2019 and a growth of 9 % cans consumed, the total amount of aluminium recycled from cans reached a record level of 510,000 t, an increase of more than 20,000 t since the previous year, according to a recent report by Metal Packaging Europe and European Aluminium. The figures represent a total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions saving of 4,2m t of CO2e, which corresponds to the amount of GHG emissions produced by a European town of nearly half a million inhabitants like Toulouse or Gdansk. 

Can manufacturers (members of Metal Packaging Europe) and their aluminium suppliers (members of European Aluminium) stressed that despite the introduction of the new EU recycling reporting rules and the spectacular growth in cans consumed, the total tonnage of recycled aluminium cans has increased. Most EU member states now report at the point of entrance of a recycling facility, instead of the collection phase. This has resulted in a recycling drop for most packaging materials.  

The aluminium beverage can already meets the highest EU recycling requirements

“We are fully supportive of the new EU recycling reporting rules as these measure ‘real’ recycling and we are pleased to notice that this has resulted in only a very minor and likely only temporary drop in the can recycling rate. The aluminium beverage can already meets the highest recyclability performance grade of 95 % as proposed in the new draft for a Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation,” said Léonie Knox-Peebles, CEO of Metal Packaging Europe. As aluminium beverage cans are fully circular and can be recycled endlessly without losing the aluminium’s inherent properties, we are confident that even in a growing market we will be able to meet our 100 % beverage can recycling ambition by 2030”. 

Deposit Return Systems help closing the material loop

“With more and more countries turning to Deposit Return Systems (DRS) we will be able to recycle more cans via a can-to-can remelting solution, generating maximum environmental benefits and we are calling upon those countries with classic EPR systems to invest more into the collection and sorting of the whole aluminium packaging fraction in order to fully close the material loop,” commented Maarten Labberton, director of the Packaging Group at European Aluminium. “Although we are surprised by the unfounded high reuse targets in the new EU proposal, we welcome the obligation to collect 90 % or more of metal and plastic beverage containers for recycling, preferably via DRS. A Deposit Return System should be balanced, which means that it should be run by an independent operator, have variable deposit fees and no cross subsidies between the materials concerned.” 

European aluminium beverage can recycling rates
Foto: European Aluminium
Aluminium beverage can recycling rates in Europe in 2020, in %