The recycling rate for aluminum cans reached its highest level in 17 years, although an estimated $800 million worth of the metal is still landfilled each year.
That’s according to a report by The Aluminum Association and the Can Manufacturers Institute examining 2014 performance indicators for aluminum beverage container recycling.
The consumer recycling rate reached 56.7 percent in 2014, compared to the 54.9 percent rate in 2013. It was the highest rate since 1997.
An estimated 59.3 billion cans were recycled. At the same time, roughly 37.6 billion cans were landfilled, according to the report.
“These landfilled cans, which could otherwise have been recycled and made into new cans, have a significant negative impact on the environment through wasted energy and on the economy through lost jobs,” the report states.
At the same time, the cans have an average higher percentage of recycled content than they did in the past. In 2014, a survey of association members showed an average recycled content of 70 percent. Of that, 43 percentage points are post-consumer scrap and 27 percentage points are post-industrial scrap, according to the report.
The Aluminum Association conducts a survey of recycled content every four or five years. Figures for 2007 showed average recycled content of 68 percent. The association surveyed five main producers of can sheet: Alcoa, Logan, Novelis, Tri-Arrows and Wise. Novelis, in particular, has made news with its high-recycled-content beverage container, Evercan, which boasts at least 90 percent recycled content.
At the same time, aluminum stats continue to be affected by product lightweighting. More containers must be collected to yield the same weight of scrap recovered in years past. In 2014, the average can weighed 12.99 grams, a 38 percent weight reduction from 1971, when the Aluminum Association began reporting average weights.
The Aluminum Association’s consumer recycling rate compares domestic can recycling to cans shipped in the U.S. Its industry recycling rate, which includes imported scrap and exported cans, was calculated at 66.5 percent in 2014.