Aluminum can producers push for deposit legislation

Constellium’s plant in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, can recycle up to 340,000 metric tonnes of post- and pre-consumer aluminum scrap annually. | Courtesy of Constellium

Beverage can makers will allocate money to push state lawmakers to pass new container drop laws, as part of an industry effort to increase UBC’s recycling rates.

“This is going to be a serious push,” Scott Breen, vice president of sustainability at the Can Manufacturers Institute (CMI), told Resource Recycling in an interview.

CMI today announced a new industry goal for recycling used beverage cans (UBC) in the United States, along with broad strategies to achieve this goal. CMI members have set a common goal of a 70% recycling rate at UBC by 2030, up from 45% last year.

CMI members supporting this effort are aluminum sheet suppliers Constellium, Kaiser Aluminum, Novelis and Tri-Arrows Aluminum, and beverage can manufacturers Ardagh Metal Packaging, Canpack, Crown Holdings and Envases. The increase in UBC collection provides more metal for recycling into new cans. Partly because of the alloys used, 93% of UBCs are recycled into beverage cans, Breen said. Industry-wide, the recycled content of beverage cans is approximately 73% (including post-consumer and post-industrial content).

According to recently released data, 1.38 billion pounds of UBC were recycled in the United States last year. Increasing UBC’s recycling rate from 45% to 70% would generate an additional £ 757 million. UBCs were worth more than 81 cents a pound last month, according to

To achieve the 70% recycling rate target, CMI’s efforts will include four main ‘pillars’, which are to promote drop-off programs, increase in-home and out-of-home recycling, and help MRFs to capture more UBCs and educate consumers about recycling cans. .

Lobbying for depository programs

The first initiative, to push depository programs to state and federal levels, will be the cornerstone of the effort, Breen explained. CMI has formed a deposition working group with the Aluminum Association to lobby for deposition programs.

Although Breen said he couldn’t disclose how much money was budgeted for the campaign, he said most of the money would go to advocating for well-designed deposit programs, as it is the best opportunity to move the needle, he said. He noted that about 40% of the UBCs that industry collects for recycling come from 10 deposit states.

Breen acknowledged that implementing a new deposit program is a big change from the status quo.

“We think it’s worth it,” he said. “We believe there is a way to do this which is efficient and convenient, which will be convenient for the consumer and also minimize the burden for everyone, so that we can get these containers back so that we can put them in a new one. box.”

CMI has been announcing its interest in bottle invoices for some time. In March 2020, the executives of CMI and the Aluminum Association published an editorial in Resource Recycling in support of the deposit programs. The article details what they think a “well-designed” filing system they could support. More recently, the CMI, the National Association for PET Container Resources and the Glass Packaging Institute drafted a joint statement in September calling for the adoption of well-designed deposit programs.

By “well-designed”, the groups said they wanted easy and convenient reimbursement for consumers, a deposit of unused money to improve the recycling system, a private management organization to manage the system, amounts from proper deposit, inclusion of all types of beverages and containers, and clear return label labeling on containers.

Breen told Resource Recycling that CMI wanted to see deposit systems in which producers of aluminum cans pay lower fees to management organizations than other container manufacturers, a recognition that UBCs generate more revenue from sale of products for the recycling system as PET and glass.

Other groups have also come out to openly support bottle bills in recent years. The Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR) approved in May a position statement in favor of bottle deposit systems (APR owns Resource Recycling, Inc., publisher of Resource Recycling). In addition, beverage companies, which have long opposed deposits because they increase the price of their products, have shifted their positions to now support certain deposit programs, depending on the specifics of their structure.

How do MRFs fit in

As manufacturers can push for drop-off programs, it will be important to listen to the concerns of other stakeholders in the recycling system, Breen said.

Some waste management companies have opposed efforts to expand deposit programs because it diverts valuable aluminum and plastics from their FRMs. This was the case in New York State, where curbside recycling stakeholders fought a state effort to add types of beverages to the program.

Breen said the concerns of MRFs about removing high-value materials from the recycling stream are fair, and CMI’s own research has shown that MRFs depend on UBC sales revenue. For example, research by consulting firm Gershman, Brickner & Bratton (GBB) found that UBCs account for 0.4% of an MRF’s inflow in states with container buyback laws and 2, 2% of the flow in states without them.

But Breen pointed out that selective recycling still occurs in the 10 states with deposit systems, and he referred to some steps that could be taken to ease the transition from FRMs to a deposit program. For example, he suggested diverting part of the revenue from unclaimed deposits to MRFs, as well as allowing MRFs to buy back containers for the full value of their deposit.

“There are things that can be done. We need to listen and think about what’s right and think system-wide, ”he said.

Breen added that deposits can be associated with Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes, which help generate revenue to fund recycling schemes. The lockers make sense for beverage containers, in particular, as they are often consumed on the go, he said.

Another pillar of CMI’s effort is building on its can catching program, managed with assistance from The Recycling Partnership. This program provided grants to help fund eddy current separator equipment in FRMs.

The first two grants, announced in April 2021, were for the installation of eddy current separators at Independent Texas Recyclers’ MRF in Houston and Curbside Management’s MRF in Asheville, North Carolina. In August 2021, CMI announced a third capture grant for the MRF of GEL Recycling in Port Orange. , Florida And with today’s news, CMI announced a fourth grant to the city of Milwaukee / Waukesha County, Wisconsin.

Breen said the can catching grants required a matching contribution from the MRF. Due to the relatively high value of aluminum, equipment tends to pay for itself very quickly, he said. Because CMI wants to fund equipment that fits the business case, the organization is exploring a lease option with an option to buy program, he said. Under such a program, CMI would provide the equipment to the MRF at no cost, and the MRF would remit a portion of UBC’s additional sales revenues generated by the sorting equipment, until the equipment is reimbursed, after which the MRF keeps it.

CMI intends to publish a roadmap in early 2022 with more details on activities within the four pillars of its effort.

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