‘Leave your cap on!’ Initiatives boost aluminium closure recycling rate to 45%

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT

EAFA aluminium closures recycling Europe

Related tags Recycling Aluminium Bottle

The average aluminium closure recycling rate in Europe has hit 45% thanks to improved collection and recycling, according to the European Aluminium Foil Association (EAFA). 

Aluminium closures can be recycled in two collection streams: a mixed packaging stream, or glass packaging stream. Metal (such as caps or aluminium skirting around the bottle neck) can be separated from glass during the collection and sorting process – meaning consumers can recycle bottle and closure as one.

Guido Aufdemkamp, director communications, EAFA, told FoodProductionDaily.com the recycling rate of aluminium is linked to improved recycling of glass bottles.

“There’s an increase in awareness of recycling, and aluminium closures benefit from this. There are several campaigns which we are supporting, such as ‘Leave your cap on’ in the UK. When you bring your bottles – olive oil, wines, mineral water, spirits – for recycling, you just leave the cap on.”

Value of aluminium

Recycling aluminium uses up to 95% less energy than its primary production, and consequently reduces greenhouse gas emissions, Aufdemkamp said. It can also be recycled over and over again without loss of quality.

The value of the recycled aluminium supports the economics of the recycling process. Once separated from other materials, the metal goes into the aluminium recycling stream for re-melting before being used again in other products.

Recycling rates vary across Europe from 85% in Germany to 65% in Italy and 45% in the UK. Southern European countries tend to have lower recycling rates, Aufdemkamp said.

Who can boost recycling rates - and what are the challenges?

Recycling rates have been increasing over the last few years, and the challenge now is to continue the growth, he added.

“It’s very hard to define a target, we just want to do better,”​ he said. “We support initiatives, national collection systems, and we tackle those countries which are lagging a bit behind.”

Brands have already been encouraging recycling – such as including recycling logos or instructions on bottles - for some time, Aufdemkamp said.  Aluminium closure manufacturers have little power to encourage recycling as they don’t connect with the end user.

Instead, the amount of aluminium collected needs to be increased by further encouraging consumer recycling; and by improving collection capacities, he said.

“Everybody in the supply chain is already doing a lot to encourage people to recycle. It depends on the national systems. There is also a problem in that you cannot expect a country with economic difficulties to invest in packaging collection systems – they have other problems.”

The European Aluminium Foil Association represents companies engaged in the rolling and rewinding of alufoil; the manufacture of aluminium closures and alufoil containers; and all kinds of flexible packaging. It has more than 100 member companies are based in western, central and eastern Europe.

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