Alcan's US subsidiary Alcan Aluminium, the top US recycler of used beverage cans, has said revamps at some of its plants slowed its recycling to over 22 billion cans in 2001, from nearly 23.8 billion cans in 2000.
The decrease was due to temporary suspensions made at some plants to improve productivity, an Alcan Aluminium spokeswoman told Reuters. She said a more specific number for 2001 could not yet be given. Alcan's recycling represented 40 per cent of the cans recycled in the United States.
Alcan's Berea, Kentucky, aluminium can recycling plant, the largest such facility in the world, recycled more than 11 billion cans last year, the company said in a statement.
Alcan also operates can recycling plants in Greensboro, Georgia, and Oswego, New York. Greensboro in 2001 recycled more than 6 billion cans, while Oswego reprocessed more than 5 billion cans, the company said.
According to US trade group The Aluminium Association, US recycling of aluminium beverage cans fell below a 60 per cent rate in 2001 for the first time in a decade, due to lower production and reduced consumer attention to recycling.
Industry experts have said the steep fall in the price of aluminium in the last two years also meant recyclers were no longer able to cover costs of hauling recycled material.
The Association said about 55.6 million aluminium beverage cans were recycled last year, roughly 11.2 per cent fewer than in 2000. The percentage of cans collected, or the recycled rate, was 55.4 per cent in 2001.
Pierre Arseneault, president of Alcan's North American rolled products operations, said aluminium, was the most valuable beverage packaging material, earning five times more for its collection in curbside recycling programmes than plastic and glass.
"Once produced from raw materials, aluminium (cans) retain the ability to be recycled forever, from a can to a can without any deterioration in quality or value. This is an advantage that no other recyclable material can claim," he said.
The process helps conserve natural resources, reduces litter and minimises the need for landfill space, he added.
Cleveland, Ohio-based Alcan Aluminium employs more than 4,500 people at 13 facilities in the United States.