The environmental impact of plastics has been receiving increased attention recently as we are writing more and more about this topic to educate people. In the UK, the BBC’s documentary Blue Planet has shone a spotlight on the problem of ocean plastics. Along with this, news about China’s import ban on poor quality plastics has raised concerns among the British, the rest of Europe, the US and Australia about the gradual increase of plastic rubbish, as they need to find new alternatives knowing that landfill and incineration are polluting as well.
On the one hand, plastics are used for many single-use or on-the-go items, water bottles constitute the average type of plastic waste. On the other hand, cans are light, they don’t take too much space, and are easy to recycle.
To limit plastic pollution, plastic drinks bottles must be substituted with more efficiently recyclable packaging alternatives. Could aluminium be one of those?
According to the US-based Aluminium Association, aluminium is one of the most recyclable materials. Why? Simple! Recycling aluminum requires 95% less energy, and produces 95% fewer Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG), than manufacturing primary aluminium. That is a GHG saving equivalent to taking 900,000 cars off the road for 12 months.
The aluminium beverage can is the world’s most recycled packaging container. A used aluminium beverage can can be recycled, reprocessed, remade and ready for re-sale in around 60 days. In a whole year, that one can could be recycled eight times, saving enough energy to make 160 new cans.
Making one aluminium beverage can from raw materials uses the same amount of energy that it takes to recycle 20. And if you want to put this into an everyday context, recycling just one aluminium beverage can saves enough energy to power a television for three hours. Impressive, isn’t it?
That’s why, unlike many other materials, aluminium pays for its own recycling in the consumer and industrial waste stream.
So, can we say aluminium is our new eco-friendly ally?
Among all factors in environmentally friendly packaging, recyclability is considered to be the most important aspect. Indeed, 74% of consumers generally find it very or extremely important (according to GlobalData’s 2017 Q1 survey). Furthermore, during recycling, most consumers (71%) require an easy way to separate different materials for disposal.
As a result, aluminium cans are in a better position to answer to those requirements than beverage cartons, for instance, which usually consist of layers of different materials, making it harder for them to be recycled even if they look more sustainable than aluminium.
Nowadays, the beverage can has mostly been used for soda and soft drinks, energy drinks, beers and sometimes coffee. We really hope that in the future it will widen its presence in still drinks, including water, juice, tea, and alcoholic beverages, such as wine. Moreover, the can will be able to add some cool vibes to these new used beverage categories.
For instance, CanOWater, a 330ml re-sealable can of natural spring water, had been chosen to sponsor the 2016 London Fashion Week.
Wine in cans is also another crazy funky trend, especially during the summer months. It’s easier and lighter to carry around than the glass bottle. And although it still represents a small portion of the market, sales have been rising in the past few years.
So, what will the future hold for the aluminium packaging market? We’ll keep you updated, so stay tuned!