Could Aluminium Can Recycling Hit 85% By 2020?

By Paul Fears | 30 July 2018

A recent report published by Alupro and reported by Resource highlights that the recycling of aluminium cans could reach 85% by the year 2020.  The 2017 aluminium can recycling rate presently stands at 72% and has increased by 7% since 2013.  To reach the rate of 85%, recycling would need to increase by 13% in 2 years when rates have only increased by 7% in the last 5.  So are there any dramatic changes proposed to increase the recycling rate of the aluminium can?

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How Are Aluminium Cans Recycled?

Presently, aluminium cans are recovered for recycling via a number of different avenues including:

  • Collection of aluminium cans (and often steel cans) at can recycling banks or by charities.  When the cans are mixed, steel cans are separated from aluminium using one of many different designs of magnetic separator such as the Can Sorter;
  • The Aluminium Cans are initially segregated by households with other recyclables into specified bags or collection vessels, and then collected by local authorities.  This mixed bag of recyclables is then processed in a Materials Reclamation Facility when materials are separated by hand or by using specialist equipment.  Commonly, Overband Magnets are used to separate steel cans and Eddy Current Separators are used to expel and separate aluminium cans;
  • Could aluminium can recycling hit 85% by 2020
  • The Aluminium Cans are discarded into general waste, which is then processed.  Eddy Current Separators are commonly installed in general refuse recycling plants to recover aluminium cans lost to general waste;

How Can 85% Aluminium Can Recycling Be Reached?

A significant change in the way waste is managed is needed to boost the recycling rate of aluminium cans by 13% in 2 years.  At present, it is unclear what changes are going to be implemented to reach this milestone.  The European Union also has set targets for aluminium packaging recycling (that incorporates aluminum cans) of 75% by 2025, an ambitious target.

To drive packaging recycling rates higher, Alupro (The Aluminium Packaging Recycling Organisation) recommends the following actions:

  • Investment in communications to ensure that the wider public has a greater understanding of recycling processes and the reasons behind them;
  • Ensuring consistency of local authority kerbside collections to be certain that aluminium packaging such as aerosols, cans and foil continue to be collected;
  • Investment in effective on-the-go infrastructure that increases quality recycling and reduces littering;
  • Continuing to develop separation technology, so that material quality is improved and ultimately aluminium packaging recovered from incinerator bottom ash (IBA) can be used to make new packaging; and
  • Reform of the packaging producer responsibility system.

Despite the Alupro report, recycling 85% of aluminium cans by 2020 will need significant changes in infra-structure and added investment and, at present, there is no evidence of either taking place.

For additional information on equipment used to recover aluminium and steel cans from pre-sorted waste or general refuse, please contact us on:


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All photographs taken by Paul Fears Photography

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