Aluminum can recycling rate reaches highest level in more than a decade

The United States recycling rate for aluminum beverage cans has reached its highest level in a decade, with 58.1 percent of all cans recycled last year – a rate that is nearly double that of any other beverage container, according to the Aluminum Association, Can Manufacturers Institute (CMI) and Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI).

Nearly 56 billion aluminum cans were recycled in 2010, leading to a used beverage container (UBC) recycling rate of 58.1 percent — the highest in 11 years. Because it takes 95 percent less energy to produce a can from recycled material, the high recycling rate also resulted in significant energy savings. The amount of energy saved just from recycling cans in 2010 is equal to the energy equivalent of 17 million barrels of crude oil, or nearly two days of all United States oil imports.

“There’s a huge difference between what’s recyclable and what’s actually recycled,” said CMI president Robert Budway. “Not only are cans infinitely recyclable back into new cans, they actually are being recycled at a rate nearly twice that of every other beverage package. This, coupled with the fact that aluminum cans have the highest recycled content and provide the longest shelf life of any beverage package, underscores why the can truly is the sustainable solution for twenty-first century packaging.”

“As the first link in the manufacturing supply chain, the scrap recycling industry provides vital feedstock material sought after by industrial customers around the world, including more than 4.6 million metric tons of aluminum scrap processed in the United States and shipped throughout the United States and more than 50 countries in 2010,” said Robin Wiener, president of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries.

In 2008, the Aluminum Association adopted a goal of recycling 75 percent of aluminum cans by 2015. The recycling rate at that time was 54.2 percent, and it has been gradually climbing upward since then; the 2009 UBC recycling rate was 57.4 percent.