One in two aluminium screw caps in Europe is recycled. Photo: EAFA
Aluminium Recycling Percentage up to 87%
The recycling of aluminium packaging continues to develop on a very high level. According to industry experts, approximately 108,900 tons of aluminium packaging were in use in Germany in 2015, 94,800 tons of which were recycled. This figure corresponds to a recycling ratio of 87% and, what’s more, it is slightly up on the previous year.
Recycled metals are also increasingly produced on a global scale. According to experts, since 1980 output has quadrupled from five to 20 million tons annually. In contrast to this the proportion of newly produced aluminium rose from 15 to 40 million tons over the same period.
No primary aluminium in Japan
In the 1980s Japan even stopped domestic primary aluminium production altogether, and even achieved a recycling ratio of 94.7 % in 2012. Of the 19.12 billion aluminium cans used – which roughly corresponds to 300,000 tons of raw material, 18 billion were accounted for by re-used or recycled materials – i.e. a good 285,000 tons. The resulting energy savings were put at over six billion kWh; enough to supply 52 million Japanese households with power for 13 days.
Beverage cans account for the lion’s share of semi-rigid and rigid aluminium-based packaging. Thanks to suitable technologies it is possible to recycle waste scrap into ingots, from which in turn kneaded products (such as can bodies) can be made. Experts speak of a high aluminium content here, and this corresponds to a high market value.
Flexible packaging waste, in contrast to this, has a low aluminium content since the packaging is often very thin and frequently laminated with paper or plastics on top of this. Nevertheless, using specially developed technology it is possible to separate the aluminium from the lamination products and reclaim it for closed-loop recycling.
The percentage of collected packaging materials varies from country to country and depends on many factors such as state regulations, deposit schemes, recycling fees or advertising, to name but a few, explains aluminium producer Hydro on its website. “In Europe 30% to 90% of cans are collected, the average for European countries stands at 70%. For rigid packaging the total recycling ratio in Europe amounts to 50%,” says the company.
Christian Wellner, managing member of the executive committee of GDA, the Aluminium Association, voices his satisfaction at the high recycling figures. "In Germany the recycling of aluminium packaging has reached levels that serve as a role model for all of Europe – if not the world. Aluminium packaging recycling not only makes a contribution to climate protection here but also ranks highly in terms of raw material supplies from an economic viewpoint.”
EAFA, the European Aluminium Foil Association, is also able to register positive developments. The average recycling ratio for aluminium screw caps has gone up to over 50 per cent across Europe. EAFA’s campaign “Aluminium Closures – Turn 360°” has proven that national initiatives particularly make an impact here.
The amount of energy required for producing aluminium for one new beverage can suffice to produce 20 recycled cans, according to UBC recycling Hydro Neuss. Photo: Coca-Cola Deutschland
Rewarding for both the Environment and Business
Aluminium can be recycled any number of times – without any quality losses. The big economic and ecological benefit is that high amounts of energy are needed for producing new metal. The recycling processes, however, only require approx. five percent of the energy to remelt aluminium for a new use.
Recycled deodorant cans can be converted into bicycles, gyms and many other things. Photo: Fa Floral Protect Mohn & Blauglöckchen Deospray / Henkel