Americans Trashed 50 Billion Aluminum Cans

Washington, DC - The Container Recycling Institute (CRI), a nonprofit research group, released a new report titled "Trashed Cans: The Global Environmental Impacts of Aluminum Can Wasting in America." The report details the global environmental impacts of replacing 50 billion wasted cans each year with new cans made from virgin materials.

"This can wasting represents a tremendous lost opportunity to save energy and resources," said the report's author, Jenny Gitlitz. "The energy required to replace the 50 billion cans trashed last year was equivalent to 16 million barrels of crude oil— enough to meet the electricity needs of all the homes in New York City, Dallas, Detroit, Seattle and the Washington-Baltimore Metro Area for one year."

According to the report, over half of the 100 billion cans sold in the United States in 2001 were not recycled and last year's 49 percent aluminum can recycling rate dropped to its lowest in 15 years. Aluminum can waste last year was 28 percent more than a decade ago (594,420 tons).

"The public often views the aluminum can as 'environmentally friendly' due to its recyclability," Ms. Gitlitz said, "but just because something is recyclable, it doesn't always follow that it is recycled. In the case of aluminum cans, for every six-pack of beer or soda cans recycled, another six- pack ends up in a landfill.

According to the report, the rising tide of can waste is due primarily to a decreasing financial incentive to recycle aluminum cans. "The value of a pound of aluminum cans to folks who collect scrap cans for cash hasn't changed much in the past decade, but the value of a dollar has declined," said Ms. Gitlitz.

"People are also drinking more beverages on the go, away from the convenience of residential curbside recycling bins, and many of these cans are ending up in the garbage," Gitlitz said. "Consumers in the ten U.S. states with bottle bills, on the other hand, have a financial incentive to recycle, and they are able to achieve recycling rates of 70- 95 percent."