57.4% of aluminum cans were recycled in 2009

RP news wires

The Aluminum Association, Can Manufacturers Institute (CMI) and the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) on September 15 announced the 2009 Used Beverage Container (UBC) recycling rate at 57.4 percent. This is the highest recycling rate of any beverage container in the United States. In 2009, Americans and the aluminum industry recycled nearly 55.5 billion aluminum cans, nearly 2.3 billion more than in 2008.

"The aluminum can is infinitely recyclable," said Steve Larkin, president, The Aluminum Association. “A recycled can is able to be back on the store shelf in as little as 60 days — using 95 percent less energy and 95 percent less greenhouse gas emissions then creating a can from new metal.”

“Aluminum cans continue to provide our customers and consumers with an exceptional environmental package of choice. The infinite recyclability of aluminum compounds its sustainable benefits,” said Robert Budway, president of the Can Manufacturers Institute.

“The scrap recycling industry continues to play a vital role in maintaining a steady supply of aluminum for America’s manufacturing economy while also being a strong environmental steward,” said Robin Wiener, president of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries. “In 2009, over 4.6 million metric tons of aluminum was processed by the U.S. scrap industry saving the energy equivalent of 1.3 billion gallons of gasoline. The data shows that aluminum cans continue to be a valuable recyclable commodity.”

Choosing a beverage in an infinitely recyclable aluminum can and then making sure it ends up in the recycling bin is one of the easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint. The aluminum can is the only packaging material that more than covers the cost of collection and reprocessing for itself. As the most valuable item in the consumer waste stream, it helps finance the collection and recycling of a wide range of other materials. Also, higher recycling rates ensure a steady supply of high-value recycled aluminum which provides overall waste reduction and a significantly improved environmental impact.

The highest processed receipts in five years demonstrate that the aluminum industry continues its serious commitment to recycling. This additional effort resulted in the largest year-on-year percentage increase in the past ten years, and the highest effective rate since 2000.

Continued Larkin, “While we are pleased with the increase, we need all Americans to step-up their recycling efforts to assure the availability of the can and to reach the industry’s own goal of a 75% rate. To achieve this goal, the industry will continue to work with all partners in the supply chain to drive progress towards the most cost-effective, least intrusive means in realizing further gains in the rate.”

  • Today’s beverage can weighs only 0.466 ounces, more than 15 percent lighter than in 1993.

Through engineering and technology advancements, the can continues to become lighter while delivering the same serving size and using fewer resources — a goal of any container. There are 34.35 aluminum beverages to a pound.

Additional sustainability points on the environmental superiority of the beverage can include:

  • The carbon footprint for aluminum cans has been reduced 44% over the last 17 years.
  • Energy used to make aluminum cans has been reduced 30% over the last 17 years.
  • The aluminum can has a 68% total recycled content, the highest of any beverage package material.
  • Secondary aluminum production, which is produced from recycled beverage cans, generates 95% less Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG) emissions than primary production.


    Pounds of   No. of Cans   No. of   No. of   Percent of
    Aluminum   per Pound of   Aluminum Cans   Aluminum Cans   Aluminum Cans








    (millions)       (billions)   (billions)    












2008   1,557   34.18   53.2   98.3   54.2
2009p   1,614   34.35   55.5   96.6   57.4
% Change   3.7%   0.5%   4.2%   -1.7%   3.2


  The Aluminum Association, Inc.
  Can Manufacturers Institute
  Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries




1972 - 1984, U.S. Department of Interior, Bureau of Mines - Net Receipts


1985 - 1988, estimated by The Aluminum Association, Inc.


1989 - present, based on joint survey by the Aluminum Association and Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries


Prior to 1989, calculation based on Aluminum Association can weight survey.


From 1989 forward, data provided by the Can Manufacturers Institute.


Total pounds collected multiplied by can weight.

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