Facilities exist to recycle all of the nearly 9.5bn beverage cans consumed in the UK. However, though the drinks can recycling rate in the UK has come on leaps and bounds with over half of all cans consumed being recycled, there is more to be done. Metal is infinitely recyclable. In fact, a drinks can could be back on the shelf as a brand new one in as little as 6 weeks, resulting in up to 95% less energy consumption than it takes to make one from virgin material. This means a significant reduction in CO2 emissions and a substantial cost saving to be made.
The government has announced that recycling targets for all aluminium and steel packaging for 2013-2017 will increase by 3% and 1% per year, respectively, from 2013. The current rates for 2012 are 40% for aluminium and 71% for steel. Whilst there is a lot of debate surrounding these targets, one thing is clear, recycling is hugely important.
If every can in the UK was recycled, around 1,080,387 tonnes of CO2 emissions could be saved and more than 144,000 tonnes of steel and aluminium could be diverted from landfill*, all of which could go into making brand new products from metal – not just new cans. Aside from the environmental benefits of recycling, metal is the most valuable commodity that can be saved from the waste stream. Metal that is collected through recycling programmes can be sold on and there is strong evidence that some recycling programmes can pay for themselves and even generate a profit if they are run effectively.
Everyone has a significant part to play to make sure metal stays in the recycling loop, and it doesn’t matter if you are part of a big corporation, small business or an individual. If everyone tries to recycle the cans they use, there will be significant benefits to the environment as well as financial benefits.
*Figures based on calculations verified by WRAP