Higher recycling rates offer the greatest potential for improving the environmental performance of the beverage can. European beverage-can producers and metal suppliers have therefore agreed upon a common objective to facilitate the recycling of at least three of every four cans in Europe.
|Stephan Rösgen (Photo: Ball Packaging Europe)
Beverage cans can be recycled completely and an infinite number of times, with the recycled metal having the same high quality as the original product. Consequently, unlike other packaging materials, it can be processed repeatedly to form high-quality products like window frames or bicycles, or even to a beverage can again.
“Recycling an aluminium beverage can saves up to 95 percent of the energy required for the production of virgin material. In this way, the CO2 emissions are reduced by up to 95 percent. That means the higher the recycling rate, the lower the CO2 emissions. In other words, beverage can recycling is a genuine contribution to climate protection and contributes directly to efficient use of resources,” says Stephan Rösgen, who is vice president of Regulatory Affairs for Ball Packaging Europe.
Embracing sustainable practices
With respect to the sustainability of aluminium beverage cans, what are the key challenges for Ball Packaging Europe?
“Ball has embraced sustainable practices for decades,” says Rösgren. “We have reduced the amount of materials used in our products. We have reduced energy consumption, emissions, water and waste. We have improved employee safety, supported recycling collection programs and created value for our shareholders. But we also need a strong partnership across the supply chain with companies like Hydro to continue to make substantial improvements. We believe we can make the best improvement by increasing collection and recycling.”
The beverage can is the world’s most recycled beverage package, not least because used beverage cans are valuable raw materials. In Europe, the recycling rates are very high thanks to an efficient recycling infrastructure – markedly higher than the rates of glass and plastic packages.
“A high percentage of aluminium beverage cans is already being recycled in many European countries, over 90 percent. In some countries, however, the recycling rates can still be increased. We are particularly committed to this at Ball,” he says.
To illustrate, he says that in Central and Eastern Europe, Ball has been establishing environmental foundations with Hydro and other partners since the mid-1990s. The Recal Foundation in Poland, for example, promotes environmental awareness and the recycling idea, mainly among children and youth. The foundation makes information available to schools, kindergartens and local authorities and municipalities. Every year, they promote dozens of campaigns for the collection and recycling of beverage cans. This is also the case in Serbia.
“In the United Kingdom, Ball, Hydro and other partners support various collection projects. Every Can Counts started in 2008 and aims at promoting the recycling of beverage cans away from home. We also want to use this program to better understand and eliminate barriers that keep consumers from recycling more when they are away from home. In addition, we support the household collection to improve the Metalmatters project. We inform people about their necessary and valuable contribution to resource efficiency and environmental protection.”
Setting a common target
As for future objectives, Rösgen says Ball Packaging Europe is committed to more recycling and is keen to work with metal suppliers to get robust systems in place in their respective markets, to ensure that collection and recycling can be facilitated.
“We encourage our suppliers to explore partnerships with our local business, local government bodies and civic organizations to promote recycling. As higher recycling rates offer the greatest potential for further improving the beverage can’s environmental performance, European beverage-can makers and metal suppliers agreed on a common objective to facilitate the recycling of at least three of every four cans in Europe. With this ambitious target in mind, we appreciate having Hydro as a reliable and committed partner,” he says.