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March 15, 2022

IAI study finds aluminium cans best support circular economy

The data show that more than 70% of the material used in aluminium cans is recycled into new products.

A study commissioned by the International Aluminium Institute (IAI) has found that aluminium cans better support a circular economy than glass or plastic.

Eunomia Research and Consulting carried out research for the study on behalf of the IAI.

The independent consultancy compared recycling data for aluminium, glass and plastic (PET) beverage containers in five regions, namely Brazil, China, Europe, Japan and the US.

The data reveal that more than 70% of the material used in aluminium cans is recycled into new products, compared with 34% and 40% for glass and plastic respectively.

In addition, more glass and plastic bottles are sent to landfill than aluminium cans and the losses in the recycling system once collected are three times higher for PET and glass bottles than that of aluminium cans.

IAI scenarios and forecasts director Marlen Bertram said: “As the Institute celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, we have been reflecting on our organisation’s long history of data collection, analysis and modelling.

“Aluminium is one of the most recyclable materials on the planet and the IAI is campaigning to ensure end-of-life products are returned into the recycling loop given the economic and environmental benefits of the metal in our global economy.

“Comparing recycling rates of different materials is meaningless if you don’t know how the rate is measured and into what products the material is recycled back to.

“This study is the first public study that comprehensively analyses the extent of recycling and losses of three beverage containers in different regions.

“By increasing the precision of identifying where major losses occur, the study could provide solutions to improving the rate of recycling for all materials. We are clearly in a new era in circularity transparency.”

The study is claimed to be the first comprehensive public investigation into the recycling value chain for single-use beverage containers in different regions.

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