recycling: Aluminum Recycling's Rise in the Can

With an impressive 66.5 percent recycling rate, the aluminum can remains the most recycled packaging container in the nation. This percentage represents 66.8 billion cans collected - a new industry record.

Aluminum cans continue to be the most valuable recyclable. In 1997, the industry paid $1.03 billion to recyclers for their used aluminum beverage cans.

Last year's recycling rate is up 3 percent from the 1996 rate and up 4.3 percent from 1995.

"This outstanding growth, both in volume and percentage terms, can be attributed to the unmatched economic and environmental benefits of aluminum can recycling," says Richard B. Evans, chairman of the Aluminum Association and president of Alcan Aluminum Corp., both in Washington, D.C. "Consumers appreciate the fact that aluminum can recycling is solid value, not solid waste."

Overall, the industry produced 100.5 billion cans in 1997, of which 66.8 billion were returned for recycling - an increase of 6.3 percent over 1996. In 1997, the industry collected 2.05 billion pounds of aluminum, an increase of 4.2 percent.

This rate "demonstrates that a partnership of manufacturers, recyclers and the public can reach impressive goals that are good for both business and the environment," says Robert Garino, Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries' (ISRI) director of commodities.

As part of the industry's commitment to source reduction, the number of cans manufactured from a pound of aluminum increased 2.1 percent to 32.57. In 1996, the number of cans per pound of aluminum was 31.92.

"The unparalleled environmental achievements of the aluminum beverage can contribute greatly to its position as the premier beverage package, both with our beer and soft drink customers and with consumers," says Robert Budway, Can Manufacturers Institute (CMI) president.

As further evidence of the aluminum can's leadership role in recycling, the Aluminum Association has announced a recycled content rate of 54.7 percent. This is the highest recycled content percentage of all packaging materials and is an increase over the 51.6 percent recycled content rate in 1996.

Aluminum cans are recycled in a closed-loop process, saving 95 percent of the energy needed to produce aluminum from ore. From recycling through reclamation and production, it can take as few as 60 days for an aluminum beverage can to be back in a store, ready for consumer purchase.