Last month the Museum of Brands opened its Sustainable Packaging display to highlight the different food and beverage pack formats available. The Can Makers supplied a selection of aluminium cans for the recycling section of the display. This helps visitors understand the sustainable characteristics of the can, its ability to be recycled and the extensive infrastructure and capacity the UK already has in place to be able to deal with metal can recycling.
Aluminium beverage cans are the world’s most recycled drinks pack (Resource Recycling Systems (RRS) and, announced this week, 72% of UK aluminium was recycled in 2017 (Alupro) up from just 2% in 1989.
Aluminium is a leader in recycling because it’s a permanent material that can be recycled infinitely, without losing any quality. If you heat aluminium to melting point, what comes out is completely the same as what went in because metal is unalterable structurally. Its base elements can never be destroyed so no matter how it is treated, it can be brought back to its original state and used again and again.
What may start out as a drinks can, can be melted down and turned into an iron, a car or even an airplane wing. It can also be back on shelf as another can in around 60 days. The can you are drinking out of will have had dozens of previous incarnations. As a result, it’s estimated that approximately 80% of metal ever produced is still in use today.
Closing the recycling loop
This continuous recycling process is defined as ‘real recycling’ because metal can be recycled forever, making it a key material in building a true circular economy. With most other materials there’s a limit to how often they can be recycled to the same quality without adding new raw material to the mix.
The Circular Economy, the idea where resources are used, recovered and then regenerated, is very much on the radar right now as one of the European Commission’s 2017 stated key priorities. Metals, as a permanent material, are well placed to make a major contribution to this and other initiatives in England, Scotland and Wales.
It’s well known now that consumer demands are changing as more people are looking for convenient, yet easily recyclable packaging. Consumers are starting to understand the difference between packaging that is technically recyclable and that which is easily actually recycled now. This is driving a significant change from brands and their approach to packaging. Many are addressing these concerns by considering cans as an alternative to their current pack format .
Check out this video from Metal Packaging Europe which demonstrates the permanent lifecycle of metal: