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CMI targets 70% US aluminum can recycle rate by 2030


Higher recycle rates eyed for 2040, 2050

CMI pushing improved curbside recycling, charity partnerships

  • Author
  • Nick Lazzaro
  • Editor
  • James Bambino
  • Commodity
  • Metals Energy Transition
  • Tags
  • United States

The Can Manufacturers Institute and its member companies are committing to increase the US aluminum beverage can recycling rate to 70% by 2030 to capitalize on the metal's sustainability attributes, the institute's officials said Nov. 10.

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"If the aluminum beverage can recycle rate had been 70% in 2020 instead of [45% in 2020], there would have been approximately 25 billion more cans recycled," CMI President Robert Budway said during a presentation hosted by the institute in conjunction with the Aluminum Association.

"These 25 billion cans would have generated more than $400 million in revenue for the US recycling system and resulted in energy savings that could power more than one million US homes for the entire year," Budway said.

Budway said CMI is also targeting recycling rates of 80% by 2040 and over 90% by 2050.

Even at 45%, aluminum cans are recycled at a higher rate than other beverage container materials, "which is good, but not good enough," Aluminum Association Senior Director of External Affairs Matt Meenan said.

Scott Breen, CMI's vice president of sustainability, said the Institute aims to achieve the higher recycling targets through a four-pronged approach. The strategy involves advocacy for can deposit programs at the state and federal levels, improvement of consumer recycling options at home and away-from-home, recycling center upgrades to ensure proper material sorting and campaigns to increase consumer awareness of recycling and buyback programs.

As an example, improving US household access to curbside recycling collection would drastically divert aluminum cans away from the trash and back into the supply chain, he added.

"Households [without curbside access] sent 17 pounds of aluminum cans on average per year to the trash," Breen said. "That compares to households with curbside access and robust education sending only eight pounds of aluminum beverage cans to the trash."

Breen said CMI would also explore partnership opportunities with charities to increase away-from-home recycling efforts at public venues that primarily use aluminum cans instead of plastic bottles.

State-level programs prove effective

Breen said the combined aluminum can recycling rate among the 10 US states that currently offer container deposit programs reached 77% in 2018, higher than the 41% rate among states without such programs.

Raphael Thevenin, vice president of marketing and sales for CMI member and aluminum can sheet producer Constellium, said the company receives a large portion of its used beverage can supplies from states with container deposit programs.

"Aluminum can sheet producers, such as Constellium, recycled last year in the US nearly 47 billion aluminum beverage cans...and 40% of those came from just the 10 states that have a deposit system," he said. "We at Constellium support new, well-designed deposit systems so that we have additional used beverage cans to turn into new cans in as little as 60 days."

Constellium recycles used aluminum beverage cans for the production of can sheet that it supplies to can makers.

To expand on this success at the state-level, CMI and its members have recently formed a task force with the Aluminum Association to push for the implementation of well-designed deposit systems.

Breen said a country-wide deposit system organized at the federal level would be the most efficient and effective approach for can recycling, but CMI will first focus on advocacy at the state-level until a national effort can be implemented by policymakers.

"[A federal deposit program] would help avoid a patchwork of systems that not only the can manufacturers have to comply with, but everyone else needs to comply with," he added. "But having said that, we don't want to sit back and put all our eggs in one basket, so that's why the joint task force is going to decide on some key states to advocate for and hopefully make some new deposit systems there."