Aluminum Can Recycling Rate Drops Below 50 Percent

April 29, 2002
Contact: Pat Franklin, Ex. Dir.
(703) 276-9800

Aluminum Can Recycling Rate Drops Below 50 Percent


WASHINGTON, DC (APRIL 29, 2002) -- Last year more aluminum cans were littered, landfilled or incinerated than were recycled, according to the Container Recycling Institute (CRI), a research group that studies container recycling issues and tracks container recycling rates. CRI data also shows that the rate has been in a state of decline for ten years, after peaking at 65 percent in 1992.

Using industry data, U.S. Department of Commerce trade data, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (USEPA) formula for determining recycling rates, CRI found that the recycling rate for aluminum beverage cans dropped below 50 percent in 2001 for the first time in 16 years.

"The 50.7 billion aluminum cans wasted last year squandered enormous energy resources. The energy value of those trashed cans was equivalent to 16 million barrels of crude oil, or enough energy to supply 2.7 million American homes with electricity for a year," said Pat Franklin, executive director of the Container Recycling Institute.

On April 26th the Aluminum Association reported an aluminum can recycling rate of 55.4 percent for 2001, a rate CRI says is not accurate. "First they inflate the recycling rate with 6.4 billion imported scrap cans. Then, despite a drop of nearly 7 percentage points in one year, based on their calculations, they fail to acknowledge the drop in the rate and the 12 percent drop in the tons of cans recycled. Finally, they offer no explanation for the decline, or how we might reverse the wasting trend."

In 1997 the industry, led by ALCAN, announced an aluminum can recycling goal of 75 percent by 2001. "Whether one accepts the inaccurate figure from the aluminum industry (55.4 percent) or the Container Recycling Institute's figure which uses EPA's methodology and reflects the true recycling rate (49.2 percent), the fact is we are much further from that goal of 75 percent today than we were in 1997 when the recycling rate was at 59.8 percent.

"The only recycling programs recovering aluminum cans at rates above 75 percent are container deposit programs," said Franklin. "Putting a 5 or 10 cent deposit on cans and bottles provides a monetary incentive to recycle and an incentive not to litter. If the aluminum industry got behind a nationwide deposit system, we could reverse the wasting trend and bring the recycling rate for aluminum cans and all beverage containers beyond 75 percent."

Aluminum Recycling Rate Graph