Aluminum cans: Most recycled and highest value beverage container on US market

Advantages of Aluminium recycling (Graphics: The Aluminum Association)

Arlington, Virginia, USA — Aluminum cans are the most recycled and highest value beverage container on the market today, according to a new report released by the Aluminum Association and Can Manufacturers Institute (CMI). The aluminum can has the highest recycling rate of any beverage container and contains 70 percent recycled content on average – more than three times the recycled content of glass or plastic (PET) bottles. The study also found that aluminum can recycled material is worth nearly 300 percent more per ton than plastic or glass.

„This new report confirms that aluminum cans are recycled by U.S. consumers at rates more than 20 points higher than that of other beverage containers, making them the sustainable package of choice,“ commented Heidi Brock, President and CEO of the Aluminum Association. „Cans are recycled at the highest rates, and drive recycling programs across the country because of the high value of aluminum compared to other packaging materials.“

Contined success of recycling

„The continued success of aluminum can recycling is a testament to our industry’s commitment to environmental stewardship,“ said Robert Budway, President of the Can Manufacturers Institute. „Americans know when they are tasting a refreshing canned beverage that they are purchasing America’s most recycled beverage package.“

The new report, „The Aluminum Can Advantage: Key Sustainability Indicators 2015“, provides a holistic approach to sustainability tracking of the aluminum can and will be a useful guide for consumers, non-governmental organizations, policymakers and other stakeholders across the value chain. The Aluminum Association plans to release a new „key performance indicator“ report each year with updated data to track progress over time.

Key findings in the report include:

      • The aluminum industry recycling rate, which measures the amount of used aluminum can scrap, including imported and exported cans, that get recycled as a percentage of U.S. shipments was essentially flat in 2014 at 66.5 percent. This reflects more than 59 million cans recycled and marks the fourth year in a row the rate has held near historically high levels.
      • The consumer recycling rate for aluminum cans, which measures domestic consumer recycling behavior, was up nearly 2 points to 56.7 percent in 2014, the highest rate reported since 1997 and a more than 12-point improvement since earlier in the decade. This compares to consumer recycling rates in the low-to-mid 30s for glass and plastic bottles.
      • Aluminum cans contain more than 3X the recycled content of glass or plastic, with 70 percent recycled content on average. This compares to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated 23 percent recycled content for glass and 3 percent recycled content for plastic bottles.
      • The study shows aluminum can scrap is worth $1,491 per ton versus $385 per ton for plastic and $0 per ton for glass. The high value of material for aluminum helps make municipal recycling programs financially viable and effectively subsidizes the recycling of less valuable materials in the bin.
      • Additionally, aluminum cans have reduced their weight by 38 percent since 1972, down to 12.99 grams on average. Aluminum cans are more than 15 times lighter than standard 12 oz. glass bottles, allowing brands to package and transport more beverages using less material.

Recovery and recycling on the rise

Over the past six years, the industry recycling rate has risen more than 12 points to 66.5 percent – and has held at this historically high level since 2012.

Each year in the United States nearly 40 billion cans – $800 million worth of aluminum – end up landfills. Making a can from recycled aluminum saves 92 percent of the energy required to make a new can. The energy saved by recycling 100 percent of aluminum cans in the U.S. could power 4 million homes for a full year.

Recovery and recycling across the aluminum industry are on the rise. The industry today collects about 11.5 billion pounds of aluminum each year for recycling – more than twice the amount of aluminum collected in the 1980s and nearly 20 percent more than averages in the early 2000s. At the same time, more than 70 percent of U.S. aluminum production today is in producing secondary, or recycled, metal.

To view the full report on the aluminum can’s sustainability performance can be visited under

Source: The Aluminum Association