European UBC recycling rate reaches 68 percent

European aluminum association calls for involvement from the aluminum packaging sector.

January 2, 2014
Recycling Today Staff
Legislation & Regulations Nonferrous

The recycling of used aluminum beverage cans (UBC) in the 27 member countries of the European Union increased by 2.4 percent to a record 68 percent in 2011, according to the European Aluminium Association (EAA).

The EAA reports that if the collection of cans in the remaining European countries and Turkey are included, more than 25 billion cans are recycled in Europe per year, representing 365,000 tons of recycled aluminium.

In a press release, the EAA expresses confidence that the UBC recycling rate will further increase towards its voluntary target of 75 percent by 2015 and 80 percent by 2020.

However, the EAA notes, in order to achieve these levels, it is important for the full value chain involved in the recycling of cans to continue to invest in existing and additional collection and sorting facilities. Extended producer responsibility schemes should recognize the scrap value of well-sorted aluminium packaging fractions and, together with the local authorities responsible for the collection of various packaging (and household) waste streams, should use modern sorting technologies such as advanced eddy current separators.

Equally important is the role of consumers, who are willing to sort a limited number of packaging items provided that the various national collection and sorting systems in place are accessible and easy to use. Consistent sorting instructions are instrumental in obtaining less polluted fractions, which can be subsequently easily recycled.

In view of the upcoming revision of the EU Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive, the EAA has stressed the need for more ambitious household packaging recycling goals, including the gradual phase-out of landfilling recyclables such as aluminium (and other metal) packaging. Additional recovery of metals from the bottom ash of waste incinerators is considered to be a useful but "second best" option. Preference should be given to separate collection of the metal packaging fraction, the association says.

EAA urges the authorities to improve the transparency of national and European packaging recovery data, and recommends that actual recycling be reported (instead of collection for recycling). Aluminium beverage cans are a valuable material resource and can be recycled endlessly, not only into new beverage cans, but also into other end-use products such as bicycles, engine blocks for cars or building parts.