MARCH 2008

Alcoa sets ambitious recycling goal

Projects aluminum can recycling at 75% by 2015

Alcoa announced that it has established a goal to raise the industry’s used beverage can (UBC) recycling rate in North America from its current 52% rate to 75% by 2015.

In the United States aluminum beverage can market of over 1.5 million metric tons per year, about 800,000 tons of UBCs are currently being recycled. Greg Wittbecker, Alcoa’s director of corporate metal recycling strategy, said that the United States recycling rate has fallen steadily from its high of 68% in 1992. In comparison, Brazil and Japan report phenomenal recycling rates of nearly 95% and 92%, respectively, and the global average is 60%.

Wittbecker cited several reasons why recycling has fallen in North America, including inconvenient collection systems, technology stagnation in coated scrap processing and commercial objectives that have not been aligned with recycling.

If 75% of UBCs not currently recycled in North America are brought back into the system that equates to about 600,000 metric tons of aluminum, Wittbecker explained. That 600,000 metric tons is equal to a savings of 1,286 megawatts of electricity, or the equivalent of two average-sized coal power plants running at maximum efficiency 24/7.

Alcoa recently began a $22 million investment to expand recycling capacity at its Tennessee operations by nearly 50 percent. The expansion will utilize state-of-the-art environmental and fuel efficiency technologies and support future flexibility to process other aluminum scrap types.

Wittbecker outlined a number of possible approaches to help increase the recycling rate, including behavior changes, making recycling and collection more convenient, technical improvements for processing coated materials and enhanced commercial alliances across all in the industry.