The overall recycling rate for aluminium beverage cans in the EU 27 including EFTA countries and Turkey increased by 1.2% to 64.3% in 2009.
Despite the difficult economic situation the consumption of aluminium beverage cans in wider Europe remained at 34 billion units - it was possible to collect and recycle a further 400 million in addition to the 21 billion cans already recycled.
The additional amount of cans recycled results into an extra greenhouse gas saving of 50.000 tons, which is the equivalent of removing 20.000 passenger cars from the road for a whole year.
Traditionally beverage can recycling rates differ a lot from country to country. Most of the Nordic European countries have well-balanced deposit systems in place which generate stable and high recycling rates of around 90%.
Countries such as Belgium with well-managed pre-sorted packaging collection schemes also book excellent results. However, some of these schemes need further improvement and should focus on a better sorting quality and include the collection of cans which are consumed out-of-home. More consistent instructions to consumers as well as improved sorting with the help of modern eddy-current separators should further boost the collection and recycling performance, not only for beverage cans but for the whole aluminium packaging fraction.
Successful local programmes such as the UK Every Can Counts initiative can further help and are now being replicated in other countries. France and Austria joined with their own versions, called Chaque Canette Compte in French, and Jede Dose Zaehlt in German. The main purpose of these programmes is to stimulate consumers at their workplace or while enjoying other outdoor activities such as a festival or a sport event to collect and deposit their cans in designated bins.
In general it is strongly recommended that EU Member States further improve their reporting of the recycled quantities of metal packaging, for example by including the quantities which are collected outside regular schemes. Several countries in Central and Eastern Europe have collection schemes run by the private sector, using the high scrap value of aluminium as the main driver while an increasing number of countries also collect metals from the bottom ashes of the household waste incinerators. These fractions should be taken into account.
Based on the overall positive recycling trend over the past 20 years the aluminium industry together with the can manufacturers are aiming at an average European recycling rate of 75% in 2015 for all beverage cans and together with its partners in the Metal Packaging Europe (MPE) platform - an overall recycling rate for all metal packaging of 80% in 2020.
Metals like aluminium are permanent materials which keep their physical structure and can therefore be recycled infinitely, without any loss of quality. End-of-life recycling of used aluminium beverage cans back into new cans or other valuable aluminium products such as bicycles, window frames or engine blocks saves up to 95% energy compared to primary production.
Aluminium beverage can recycling rate achieves 64% in Europe