Corus Steel Packaging Recycling, recorded an 80 per cent rise in the recovery of steel cans through its 'CanRoute' system between 2003 and 2004.
The firm said the rise, taking the number of cans passing though its system to 25,000 tonnes, was the result of its investment in recycling schemes.
And the news is encouraging for UK industries, including food and drink, which are under pressure to meet the government's Packaging Waste Regulations; part of the EU's aim to achieve packaging recovery rates of 60 per cent by the end of 2008.
Corus said UK businesses had met the national target of a 46 per cent recovery rate for 2004, though steel recycling fell short of its 52 per cent goal. Government ministry Defra said 22 per cent more packaging waste was recycled in 2004.
Corus said better investment, alongside a range of emerging technologies, could mean an extra 30,000 tonnes of steel available in 2008.
Such an increase in supply offers obvious opportunities for food and drink manufacturers to cut ever-growing raw materials costs.
However, Corus added that provisional results from its 2004 study left question marks over the safety and quality of the steel set to be recovered.
The group said it was still uncertain whether or not some emergent recycling technologies may produce steel that could contaminate food and drink products.
UK's Recycling loophole?
The progress in recycling highlighted by Defra and Corus was recently attacked as misleading by Wastepack, another UK recycling firm.
Wastepack warned that the considerable increase in exports of packaging waste had been achieved because the regulations allowed a percentage of mixed recycling waste to be counted as packaging waste.
Such material would have been "exported regardless of whether the producer responsibility regulations were in place or not", the company stated.
Wastepack also pointed out that since 1998, domestic reprocessing levels have only increased to 3,121,890 tonnes from 2,758,867 tonnes a year when wood recycling figures are excluded. Meanwhile, exports have risen during the same period to 1,159,778 tonnes from 115,052 tonnes.
"It is now very apparent that monies raised to date have not been invested," said Peter Gaffney, a Wastepack director. "The much-needed infrastructure that gets more of the right material out of the waste stream in time to contribute towards the 2008 target is not there."