One of the World’s Most Sustainable
As businesses continue to sharpen their emphasis on the circular economy, consumers around the world are becoming increasingly focused on the amount of packaging waste going into landfills. According to U.S. government statistics, nearly 30% of the municipal solid-waste stream in that country alone consists of packaging.
One of the most sustainable solutions for eliminating packaging waste is using aluminum in food and beverage packaging. The benefits of aluminum cans, many of which have been validated in life cycle analyses, are significant:
- The aluminum can is lightweight, infinitely recyclable, unbreakable, and quick to chill.
- Aluminum cans are recycled and back on the store shelf in only 60 days. (Source: The Aluminum Association)
- Recycling aluminum only uses 8% of the energy required to make new aluminum ingot and creates 92% less greenhouse gas
emissions. (Source: The Aluminum Association)
- With a 76% global recycling rate, the aluminum can is the most recycled beverage container in the world. Its recycling rate is around double that of glass and plastic polyethylene terephthalate (PET). (Source: The Aluminum Association)
At Alcoa, we produce aluminum rigid container sheet for the packaging products market. Our customers use our sheet to manufacture the bodies, ends, and tabs of beverage and food cans for the beer, soft drink, juice, isotonic beverage, energy drink, packaged water, food, and pet food industries.
Our can sheet and bottle stock are Cradle to Cradle CertifiedCM Silver, which is given only after an in-depth third-party assessment of a product’s safety to humans and potential impact on the natural environment. We are also a recognized leader in package innovation, developing the technology and sheet for new packaging solutions, such as the aluminum bottle, shaped packages, and aluminum closures.
We meet the aluminum packaging needs of our global customers through facilities in the United States, Australia, China, and Russia. We are also the minority partner in a food-grade can sheet rolling mill in Saudi Arabia that will begin supplying product in 2014 to meet the Middle East’s growing demand.
We operate the largest can reclamation facility in the world in Alcoa, Tennessee, USA. This facility re-melts enough used beverage containers to make billions of new aluminum cans each year. Our new project in Saudi Arabia also has recycling capabilities.
Partnering with Customers
We work with our customers to further sustainability messaging among end-users to increase the recycling rate and help educate consumers on the many values aluminum provides as beverage packaging.
During 2013, we partnered with Oskar Blues Brewing Company and Sun King Brewing Company to sponsor separate canned craft beer festivals to communicate the portability, recyclability, and sustainability of aluminum beverage cans.
At the Burning Can Beer Festival in Colorado, USA, in June 2013, more than 40 craft breweries and 1,500-plus attendees recycled 120 kilograms (265 pounds) of cans. In September 2013, the CANvitational in Indiana, USA, saw the collection of 417 kilograms (919 pounds) of cans from more than 1,750 attendees and 30-plus canning craft brewers.
We have had an active voice in the packaging industry’s dialogue around how to lessen the impacts in key areas, such as waste disposal and recycling.
We support an aggressive industry goal to raise the U.S. recycling rate for used aluminum beverage containers to 75% by 2015. This rate increased two percentage points to 67% in 2012, the most recent year for data.
The 2012 rate means the aluminum can industry recycled some 62 billion domestic and imported cans while shipping 92 billion cans in the U.S. The energy saved from this recycling equaled 19 million barrels of crude oil, which could fuel more than 1.7 million cars for a full year. (Source: The Aluminum Association)
While the rate of progress is certainly encouraging, a significant portion of the 2012 increase came from the imported cans. We are working within the industry to better refine the methodology for calculating the true U.S. consumer recycling rate, but it is clear that more needs to be done.
Our efforts are focused on investing significant resources into our recycling commitment, and we support a range of programs designed to positively impact the rate in the United States.
As a member of GreenBlue’s Sustainable Packaging Coalition®, we collaborate with partners in our supply chain through a science-based approach and continued education. The goal is to create and maintain packaging systems that are environmentally sustainable, while also supporting the economic needs of the value chain.
We continue to work with our competitors and customers in communicating the sustainability message and need for higher recycling rates through The Aluminum Association’s Can Committee and Can Manufacturers Institute.
Additional information about our recycling efforts can be found in the Recycling section.
Product Design and Life Cycle