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Aluminum cups hit Super Bowl, scoring points on sustainability and cost

Those fortunate enough to have scored a ticket to Sunday’s Super Bowl LIV in Miami know how pricey it is just getting into the big game.

On the online ticket resale site StubHub, the lowest-priced, single ticket was going for more than $4,000 in the lead up to the NFL season finale between the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs.

And once inside Hard Rock Stadium, super fans won’t get any breaks when it comes to the price of fueling up to cheer on their favorite team.

For instance, concessions such as a draft beer will set them back $9.50. That’s up roughly 35% from last year’s Super Bowl in Atlanta, where the same suds cost just $7, according to published reports.

High-cost stadium concessions are no surprise for an event like the Super Bowl. However, what might surprise fans attending the game is that while the beer they’re holding is more expensive than it was at Super Bowl LIII, the material many of the stadium cups will be made from is much cheaper than it was this time last year.

That’s because 50,000 cups distributed at this year’s Super Bowl will be made from aluminum instead of plastic.

Aluminum packaging maker Ball Corp. has teamed with Hard Rock Stadium catering partner Centerplate and Anheuser-Busch’s Bud Light to offer new 20-oz aluminum cups in the stadium’s clubs, suites and concourses during the game, the three announced recently. The cups will continue to be available throughout the year at future Hard Rock Stadium events.

Aluminum beer cup produced by Ball for Super Bowl

Beer will be served in aluminum cups at the Super Bowl LIV in Miami. (Photo provided by Ball Corp.)

Plastic has become a major focus of concern in sustainability circles, and the infinite recyclability of Ball’s new aluminum cups is estimated to help reduce the stadium’s waste by somewhere in the neighborhood of 500,000 plastic cups a year.

The recycling initiative comes at an opportune time for aluminum consumers, as aluminum pricing in the US is down significantly from a year ago.

The all-in aluminum price – the London Metal Exchange per-ton price, plus the US Midwest Aluminum Transaction Premium – was down by $246.50/mt from January 29, 2019, to $2,030.50/mt on January 29, 2020.

The Midwest premium, which S&P Global Platts assesses, soared in the wake of the Trump Administration’s imposition of 10% tariffs on primary aluminum imports in early 2018, as well as sanctions on one of the world’s largest aluminum producers, Rusal – reaching as high as 22.5 cents/lb in April of that year.

The premium, which reflects wide-ranging market dynamics such as supply and demand, trade and labor issues and delivery and logistics costs, dipped well under 20 cents/lb by January 2019 and had fallen to a multi-year low of 13.5 cents/lb by January 28, 2020.

The gradual decline in the US Midwest Premium came as the market digested the tariffs and reacted to developments such as the removal of Rusal’s sanctions, as well as tariffs on aluminum imports from Canada, the top exporter to the US.

Go deeper: Tariffs and tribulations: recasting US metals industries

Perhaps in acknowledgement of the declining market, the Trump Administration earlier this month announced it would expand US aluminum import tariffs beyond primary aluminum to include certain products derived from aluminum, as well.

How the expanded tariff plan will play out when it comes to overall aluminum pricing this year remains unclear.

What is clear, though, is that while fans won’t see lower beer prices at this year’s Super Bowl, at least the consumers of aluminum – including the producers of the new aluminum cups and cans that brewers rely on – are enjoying lower aluminum pricing than they did last year.

And for at least one segment of the US aluminum market, that’s probably worth raising a glass, er, aluminum cup, to cheer.