Our Position on Aluminum Can Recycling


  • The aluminum can is the most sustainable consumer package.  It has  
    • unmatched recyclability with a recycling rate twice as high as other containers and is the only package that can be recycled in a closed loop an infinite number of times;
    • Recycled content that is more than double the rate of competing containers
    • A shape and package weight that provides significant transportation efficiencies creating superior source reduction


  • However, compared to recycling rates outside the U.S., we lag significantly. The main reason for the recent rate improvement comes from the import of material to recycle. In fact, the industry imported 8 billion used beverage cans to feed our recycling processes while U.S. consumers threw 5 times that many cans into landfills.  Clearly cans are a resource that should not be considered trash.  


  • A huge number of cans in the U.S. are still landfilled. More than 41 billion cans each year, worth about $900 million in value, are buried each year in the U.S. This is simply unacceptable. This slow pace of change is what led Alcoa in 2008 to call for a goal of 75% by 2015 – a goal ultimately adopted by the entire aluminum industry.


  • Alcoa believes voluntary actions can and should be a key part of the solution – industry and the private sector can make a meaningful difference through:

1) increasing public understanding of the importance of recycling in order to drive behavior change, and

2) increasing the infrastructure available to consumers


  • Alcoa has contributed millions to voluntary efforts since the aluminum can was invented.  We are the leader in our industry.


  • However, we also believe that smart and fair public policy can accelerate the pace of change.  We support public policy that :
    • incents consumers to recycle (such as “Pay as you throw”)
    • increases recycling infrastructure
    • recognizes the value of the resources that need to be kept from landfills as well as material specific recycling rates and content
    • properly assesses the cost of waste and the value of recycling
    • respects the existing market-based aluminum recycling industry that is vital to our business.


Alcoa stands ready to participate in public dialogue and collaboration to increase the U.S. consumer recycling rate, and to recover this infinitely recyclable natural resource.



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