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On October 1, a group of more than 20 Polish pupils, students and teachers came to Hydro's part-owned Alunorf aluminium plant in Neuss, Germany, accompanied by the management of the "Foundation for the Recovery of Aluminium Beverage Cans – RECAL".

Thomas Geupel, managing director of Alunorf, explained about the manifold benefits of aluminium, and how Alunorf is empowering the metal for another go in its infinite cycle of use, collect, recycle and re-use.

The group spent a few days in Germany and the Netherlands at the invitation of Hydro and Ball, the can producer. The eco-conscious youngsters deserved this trip under the "Recal Green School" program as a reward for their great efforts as aluminium can collectors in Poland – and for setting a good example to other young people across the EU.

Environmental education

Hans-Jürgen Schmidt, head of Product Ecology in Hydro's Rolled Products business area, praised the visitors for their efforts: "The Polish RECAL Foundation encourages young people to actively appreciate the value of aluminium and secure its efficient utilization – great for us and for the environment."

Established in 1995, the non-profit RECAL Foundation initiates environmental education programs for schools, day-care centers, local authorities and environmental organizations that promote activities to recover and recycle aluminium beverage cans throughout the country. RECAL managing director Jacek Wodzislawski lauded the long-term commitment and continued support of his four shareholding companies, namely Hydro and Hans-Jürgen Schmidt as the longest-serving member on the Supervisory Board of RECAL.

Most collector groups benefit from the RECAL material with container, collection bags, info material and a magnet to sort out tin cans from the non-magnetic aluminium cans. Indeed, students at Wroclaw university top this, by collecting all beverage cans used by their students over the year, then build them into a huge, temporary aluminium sculpture – an airplane, car or trolley car – and only then, sell it to the scrap market.

Aluminium cans with high scrap value

Poland, behind the UK and Spain, is the third-largest and a fast-growing market for aluminium beverage cans in Europe, with more than 4 billions of cans used per year. Well-established education programmes and the high scrap value of aluminium have boosted the recycling rate of aluminium beverage cans in Poland from 2 percent in 1995 to currently 76 percent. Across Europe, this rate is at 66 percent – while Germany is the European leader and recycles 96 of every 100 cans.

The recycling of cans saves 95 percent of the energy needed to produce it from firstly smelted aluminium – and there is no end, as the properties of the material remain the same after each remelting.

"Collecting and recycling this precious metal, is an essential factor for the good environmental performance and clean, positive image of aluminium," says Schmidt.

Alunorf, the world's largest plant for the remelting and hot rolling of aluminium and a 50 percent joint venture of Hydro, produces more than 250,000 metric tons of can stock per year. As a typical beverage can of 0.33 or 0.5 liters only weighs between 11 and 15 grams, it takes more than 2 million of them at Alunorf to recycle, for casting just one giant sheet ingot of 30 tons and nine meters length – an amazing fact, also for the top can collectors from Poland.

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