Alcoa makes can recycle pledge
raise the current recycling rate for aluminium beverage cans to 75
per cent by 2015, in a bid to further boost its sustainability
The pledge to raise can recycling levels in the country from 52 per cent was made last week, ahead of the announcement on Monday that it had been named for a fourth time as one of the most sustainable global manufacturers at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. With growing pressure on manufacturers from regulators and consumers for more sustainable production, maintaining the accolade could be vital for the packaging materials firm. Alcoa claim that recycled aluminium requires 95 per cent less energy to be produced, with further recycling possible over a "multitude" of times. The group therefore hope to encourage industry to step up its activity in reusing aluminium beverage cans. Greg Wittbecker, group director for metal recycling said that raising the level of recycling could have mutual benefits for the operations of food and drink manufacturers and packers alike both for the environment and its production efficiency. "The aluminium industry must work together for common sustainability goals that transcend individual commercial objectives, and we must approach this with a sense of urgency," he stated. "It's all about recapturing this pool of energy before it is lost to the landfill." Wittbecker said that the company had already made a $22m investment in its Tennessee-based operations to increase recycling capacity by about 50 per cent. He added that the group was also ready to work with the wider aluminium industry and recycling groups to find new solutions on improving the convenience and commercial reliance on recycling. The group says that these potential benefits are not being recognised within the US, where it estimates only 800,000 metric tonnes of the total 1.5m tonnes used per year are being recycled. Wittbecker added that this represented a steady fall in the country's aluminium recycle rates of around 68 per cent in 1992. The current level of recycling in the country remains far behind leading nations like Brazil and Japan, and even the global average, which account for 95 per cent, 92 per cent and 60 per cent respectively. Wittbecker believes that a mixture of inconvenient collection systems, stagnated technology in scrap processing and a lack of commercial commitment to the cause are to blame for declining aluminium-recycling rates in the US. However, if 75 per cent of used beverage cans currently not recycled in North America could be bought back into the system, then processors could reap significant energy and environmental benefits. "By recycling 75 per cent of [these cans] not captured today, we achieve an environmental savings of reducing 11.8m metric tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions a year," he stated.