Institute calls on Alcoa to clarify recycling goals and endorse container deposits

October 8, 2002
Contact: Pat Franklin (VA) 703/276-9800
Jenny Gitlitz (MA) 508/793-8516

Institute calls on Alcoa to clarify recycling goals and endorse container deposits

WASHINGTON, DC (October 4, 2002) -- The Container Recycling Institute (CRI) today responded to Alcoa's recent commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from aluminum smelting. "We applaud Alcoa's willingness to implement pollution control measures to mitigate their impact on the global environment," said CRI's executive director Pat Franklin, "but we are concerned by the vagueness of Alcoa's recycling goals, and the company's failure to explain how these goals will be achieved."

CRI released its response, "Holding Alcoa Accountable for its Sustainability Goals" one week after Alcoa Executive Vice President John Pizzey addressed members of the Aluminum Association at their annual meeting in Nemacolin, PA. In his remarks to the trade association, Mr. Pizzey said, "The set of goals we have established will serve as milestones along the way to our ultimate vision of a company where. the environment is fully integrated into manufacturing."

"Once a rainforest has been inundated by a series of hydroelectric dams and reservoirs, there is no environment left to integrate," said CRI research director Jenny Gitlitz. "Once wetlands or estuaries have been drained, filled or contaminated as a result of smelter construction or operation, they no longer serve as breeding grounds for waterfowl or habitat for marine life. The construction of new dams, smelters, and strip mines is not compatible with environmental protection, period. " Gitlitz is author of CRI's new report, "Trashed Cans: The Global Environmental Impacts of Aluminum Can Wasting in America."

Last year, 760,000 tons of aluminum cans were wasted in the United States. "These must be replaced with entirely new cans made from virgin materials," Gitlitz said. "Irreplaceable wilderness areas in Iceland, Brazil, Chile, and Mozambique are threatened by proposed dams, smelters, and other elements of the megalithic aluminum manufacturing infrastructure."

Aluminum beverage cans make up 20% of total U.S. aluminum production, and the can recycling rate dropped to a 15-year low of 49.2%, according to CRI. "Container deposits, which exist in 11 states, are the only proven system of recovering cans at rates above 70 percent," said Gitlitz.

In order to reverse aluminum can wasting, CRI is urging Alcoa to adopt a global recycling policy that endorses mandatory container deposits, and is encouraging the company to ask their aluminum industry colleagues to do the same. "Corporations share with their consumers the responsibility for the impacts of their products and packaging on the global environment," said Franklin, "and refundable deposits put the responsibility where it belongs."

Mr. Pizzey, in his statement, explained that "50 percent of Alcoa's products, except raw ingot that would be sold to others directly, will be made from recycled aluminum by 2020." Gitlitz maintains the statement is more remarkable for what it does not say than for what it does say. "As stated, the goal could mean that 50 percent of the products will be made with 90% recycled content or with 9% recycled content, and there's a huge difference."

CRI is also concerned about the 2020 date for reaching the recycling goal. "2020 is not soon enough," said Gitlitz. "Irreplaceable ecosystems and human communities will be swallowed by the industry's great maw if 18 years transpire before a modest and unclear 50% goal is met. In the last decade, cans and other aluminum products have been introduced in many markets lacking recycling infrastructures."

Regarding Mr. Pizzey's statement that "[a]pproximately two-thirds of aluminum ever produced: 440 million tons of 680 million tons manufactured since still in use", Gitlitz responded, "If it's true that two thirds of the aluminum ever made is still in use, and we are not convinced that is true, then the converse must also be true: one third, or at least 220 million tons of valuable aluminum, have been wasted over the past century: dumped, landfilled, incinerated, or littered." According to Gitlitz, this represents an energy waste equivalent to more than 6 billion barrels of crude oil--enough to keep all 200 million American passenger cars and light trucks on the road for over two years.

"Increasing aluminum can recycling is key to reducing resource consumption, pollution and energy use related to can manufacturing," Franklin said, "and financial incentives--in the form of refundable deposits on beverage containers--are key to achieving high recycling rates."

CRI is a nonprofit organization that studies and promotes container recycling systems.
CRI's complete response is available at:

The full text of Mr. Pizzey's speech is available at:

The "Trashed Cans" report is available at:


Learn how CRI made a difference in 2023 through high-profile initiatives, legislative analysis and advocacy, and education and collaboration.



Scroll To Top