Americans recycled 55.6 billion aluminium cans in 2001, for a beverage can recycling rate of 55.4 per cent, and the industry paid out $850 million to recyclers for their used aluminium beverage cans. For 20 of the last 21 years the rate has exceeded 50 per cent.
The statistics were released by the three organisations representing the related industries - The Aluminium Association, the Can Manufacturers Institute (CMI), and the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI).
"Our member companies are on a mission to encourage consumer aluminium can recycling," said Brian Sturgell, chairman of The Aluminium Association and executive vice president of Alcan. "American consumers are vitally important to recycling, keeping the can as the most environmentally efficient beverage package," he said. "Many civic groups and charities build fundraising campaigns around aluminium can recycling," said Sturgell.
The recycling proceeds are invested into local economies benefiting individuals, municipalities, schools, churches, scout troops and non-profit organisations.
The aluminium and can manufacturing industry leads various initiatives to turn aluminium cans into cash for worthwhile community causes. For example, The Aluminium Association's partnership with Habitat for Humanity uses money earned from recycling aluminium to help volunteers and families build homes with Habitat.
The aluminium can is the leader in packaging recycling and has been for more than 20 years. In the United States, 100.3 billion cans were produced in 2001, with 55.6 billion aluminium cans recycled - some 754 million kilogrammes.
Robin Wiener, president of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, noted that the closed-loop recycling process is highly energy efficient. "Aluminium can recycling saves about 95 per cent of the energy required to produce aluminium from ore. Furthermore, the aluminium can is the number one container for recycled content with almost half of each can made from recycled aluminium."
"Can manufacturers continue to produce even lighter cans," according to Robert Budway, president of CMI. The can industry achieves this source-reduction in the form of "lightweighting"- making more aluminium cans with less aluminium - resulting in a 10 per cent savings in the number of cans per kilogram in just six years.