$600 Million Worth Of Used Aluminum Beverage Cans Landfilled In 1996

News Release

Container Recycling Institute
1911 Ft. Myer Drive, Suite 900
Arlington, Virginia 22209
703/276-9800 fax 276-9587

April 11, 1997

CONTACT: Pat Franklin

Executive Director

$600 Million Worth Of Used Aluminum Beverage Cans Landfilled In 1996

Group calls on beer and soda companies to halt the wasting of energy and material resources by implementing voluntary deposit system

WASHINGTON, DC -- The Container Recycling Institute (CRI) estimates that the 36 billion aluminum cans landfilled last year had a scrap value of more than $600 million. "We are literally throwing money away when we don't reclaim valuable resources," said Pat Franklin, Executive Director of CRI. "Over the past twenty years we've trashed more than 11 million tons of aluminum beverage cans worth over $12 billion on today's market. Some day we'll be mining our landfills for the resources we've buried."

Franklin says it would cost approximately $2.5 billion to replace the aluminum cans that are discarded each year in the U.S. with new cans. "But," she said, "the hundreds of millions of pounds and hundreds of millions of dollars worth of aluminum cans landfilled last year are just part of a much bigger 'waste' picture," said Franklin. "Mining, obtaining energy for refining and the refining process itself have enormous environmental impact."

Senator Jim Jeffords, (R-VT) has introduced a bill aimed at encouraging recycling of aluminum cans and other materials. The bill would require a 10-cent deposit on all beverage containers in states where those containers have not achieved a 70 percent recycling rate. "As we've seen in my home state of Vermont, bottle bills are good for the environment and good for business," said Jeffords. "The National Beverage Container Reuse and Recycling Act of 1997 would increase recycling of aluminum cans and other containers, save energy, conserve resources, create jobs and decrease the generation of waste."

According to Franklin, the beer and soft drink industry could avoid a mandatory deposit system by implementing a voluntary deposit system and immediately boost the recycling rate for their aluminum, glass, and plastic containers above 85 percent.  CRI's research shows that while the national recycling rate for aluminum cans has never exceeded 65 percent, the average recycling rate for aluminum cans and other beverage containers is 85 percent or higher in eight states where these containers have a deposit value of a nickel or a dime. "The five or ten-cent incentive keeps bottles and cans off of streets and beaches and out of landfills in Michigan, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Oregon, Maine, Vermont and Iowa. Even in California where beverage cans have a 2.5 cent value, the recycling rate was 80 percent last year."

Critics of CRI's 'glass-half-empty' approach say CRI ignores the strides that have been made in recycling and in the lightweighting of aluminum cans. Franklin says she recognizes and applauds the aluminum can manufacturing industry's successful efforts at source reduction by reducing the weight of aluminum cans by 40 percent over the past twenty years. "While I don't doubt their commitment to the environment, it is a fact that can manufacturers realize huge energy savings by making new cans out of used cans. This cost savings is the primary motivation."

Franklin called on the end users of aluminum cans to offer solutions to the problem. "The can manufacturing industry says it is committed to recycling 'every can that is returned', said Franklin, but the infrastructure has to be there to collect the cans. "It's time for the end users, namely the beer and soft drink producers, to take responsibility for the collection and recycling of their containers. They could increase the recycling rate for aluminum cans and the rest of their containers above 85 percent if they instituted a voluntary deposit system."

"It should be obvious, by now, that we cannot rely on the curbside recycling infrastructure to boost recycling rates for aluminum cans, since a doubling of curbside programs over the past six years has had virtually no impact on the aluminum can recycling rate," Franklin said. "We're calling on the beer and soft drink companies to halt the wasting of energy and material resources from their one-way beverage containers by implementing a voluntary deposit system."

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