‘Recyclable’ is no longer enough


Plastics furore ignites renewed focus on the material collection and actual recycling

The backlash against plastics stirred by David Attenborough’s Blue Planet series will not have come as a shock to anyone with an interest in packaging.

Disturbing images of ‘plastic islands’ have been in circulation for some time, but while for many they could be easily dismissed as fake news, Blue Planet exposure has given the situation greater credence. It was only a matter of time.

The resulting furore plays well to the current drive to push climate change and environmental concerns higher up the political agenda. This, in turn, gives renewed impetus to the creation of a fully circular economy, something the metal packaging sector has championed for many years.

Packaging recycling and recyclability have long been at the top of our agenda, and we welcome this renewed momentum. Not least because in metal, we have perhaps the most sustainable of all packaging materials.

APEAL’s latest figures for packaging recycling reaffirm steel as Europe’s most recycled packaging material for the eleventh consecutive year, with a recycling rate of 77.5 per cent.

By contrast, the comparable rate for plastic packaging is 37 per cent.

These figures are important because the consumer outcry against plastics has re-galvanised brand owners and retailers to ensure that their packaging is not only recyclable, but can be easily collected for recycling, and is then actually recycled. ‘Recyclable’ on its own is no longer enough.

In the UK, collection campaigns such as MetalMatters drive local authority kerbside collection of used cans, while Every Can Counts encourages the collection of cans for recycling in workplaces and at public events.

But what the APEAL figures also underpin, is the sector’s claim that all cans collected for recycling are actually recycled.That2.7 million tonnes of steel have been effectively recycled and made available for the manufacture of new steel products, is a real example of the circular economy at work.

And while metal’s 77.5 per cent European recycling rate is good, we know that 100 per cent is a very real possibility and something the sector is striving to reach.

APEAL is the Association of European Producers of Steel for Packaging). Methodology and data sources used by APEAL for the calculation of the recycling rates are independently audited and certified by energy and waste specialist consultancy, Eunomia.

William Boyd
Director & Chief Executive

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