New study cites economic benefits in metal can recycling

Related tags Metal packaging Recycling

A new UK study has revealed that including metal cans - both
aluminium and steel - in kerbside collection schemes can offer
significant economic benefits.

The study, funded by the UK department of trade and industry (DTI) and conducted by Dr Julia Hummel of Eco Alternatives, examined the economic impacts of including metal packaging (aluminium and steel food and drink cans and foil) in multi-material kerbside collections of household recyclables.

The conclusions of the study give clear guidance to local authorities and show that whether local authorities are introducing a new collection scheme, or expanding an existing one, there are likely to be quantifiable economic benefits if metal packaging is included.

According to an EU directive, 50 per cent of all metals must be recycled by 2008, and there are financial incentives for companies to meet their targets. In order to achieve these targets, steel - and for that matter aluminium - manufacturers have been pressuring local authorities to establish more curbside recycling collection points.

The conclusions of this report should go some way to helping them achieve this objective.

On top of this, growing consumer and retail awareness means that environmentally-friendly packaging materials are achieving an increasingly high profile, and metal packagers - already under pressure from soaring raw material costs - are having to compete against new forms of packaging. If high recycling rates can be ensured, then the likelihood of steel surviving in an increasingly crowded market place would be dramatically improved.

Hummel was asked to undertake this research using an analysis tool she launched in 2004, known as KAT, the kerbside analysis tool. For the purpose of this research KAT was used to analyse the benefits of adding metal packaging to kerbside systems.

A representative range of current kerbside modes of operation was taken into consideration, based on actual practice for typical local authorities operating on high, medium and low costs per tonne and costs per household.

The general conclusions of the research are that metal packaging contributes towards the achievement of Best Value Performance Indicators (BVPI), and that the cost benefit of including metals in kerbside collection can be realised for kerbside sorted, co-mingled and two-stream collections.

In addition, the survey demonstrated that the collection of metals, even at low recovery levels, can have a positive net benefit on the cost of the kerbside collection and MRF processing systems. The inclusion of metals in most kerbside systems will reduce the overall collection cost of a multi material collection even at low levels of recovery.

Revenues from the sales of the metals alone will more than offset the additional collection and sorting costs of collecting more recyclables, contributing to an improvement in BVPI.Metals can be included in most multi-material collections at no additional cost (depending on efficiency of collection and assuming sales revenues are received).

Steel packaging recycling in Europe increased by 1.3 per cent last year to reach just over 2.1 million tonnes, and the Association of European Producers of Steel for Packaging (APEAL) claims that the figures confirm steel's leading position in packaging recycling. May estimates that at present, 46 per cent of steel in the UK is recycled, although this is higher in other countries.

Current indicators suggest that recycling will continue to grow. APEAL estimates that, by the end of 2008, the recycling of steel packaging in the EU15 should near 70 per cent, with an average annual growth of 3.4 per cent.

Related topics Processing & Packaging

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