Steel championed as Europe’s most recycled packaging material
28 Apr 2020 --- European steel packaging has hit a new recycling milestone of 82.5 percent, making it the continent’s most recycled primary packaging material. That is according to 2018 data from the Association of European Producers of Steel for Packaging (APEAL), a federation of four multinational producers of steel for packaging. APEAL highlights that 8 out of 10 steel items put on the EU market this year have been recycled into new steel products.
“A recycling increase of two percentage points sends a clear message to all stakeholders in the value chain that steel for packaging is a tried, tested and sustainable packaging solution, fit for a 21st century circular economy,” says Alexis Van Maercke, Secretary General of APEAL.
“As 100 percent of separately collected steel packaging is used to make new products, steel is clearly the best placed of all packaging materials to achieve the aims of the new Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP 2.0),” Van Maercke adds.
APEAL believes that there is no room for complacency, however. The industry has achieved “a great deal already,” but it must continue to strive towards the improvement of the collection and recycling of steel packaging throughout the EU, the federation stresses.
Separate collection pays dividends
APEAL welcomed the European Commission’s ambition to harmonize separate collection of packaging waste streams in the EU, demonstrated in the CEAP 2.0. “Separate collection is the best way of guaranteeing high-quality input into recycling operations,” Van Maercke notes.
“Steel is circular by design. Magnetic properties make steel easy to collect and steel can be recycled over and over again without any loss of material quality. Today’s rise in recycling rates is largely the result of increased separate collection in countries such as Italy and Poland.”
An input of steel scrap is a necessary component for making new steel at any one of more than 500 steel plants in Europe, APEAL explains. The more quality scrap that can be used in new steel production, the less raw materials and energy are needed and, in turn, this reduces emissions.
In 2018 over four million tons of CO2 were saved through recycling, the equivalent of taking 870,000 cars off the road for one year, according to APEAL.
The methodology and data sources used by APEAL to calculate the recycling rate have been independently reviewed, audited and certified by energy and waste specialist consultancy, Eunomia.
Plastic out, metal in?
Robert Fell, Director and CEO of the Metal Packaging Manufacturers Association (MPMA), supports the view that it is neither realistic nor practical to ban all plastic packaging in the search for greater environmental sustainability. However, Fell does highlight that metal packaging offers considerable benefits in terms of reducing waste through its long shelf-life and reducing energy through its ambient storage during transportation, in store and at home.
In an exclusive interview with PackagingInsights, Fell discusses the effects of consumer expectations on climate change, the carbon reduction benefits of metal packaging and the role of MPMA in ensuring the voice of metal is heard “loud and clear.”
Recycling rates for aluminum beverage cans in the EU, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland also rose to a record high 74.5 percent in 2017, a 2.3 percent increase from 2016. Almost 31 billion cans were recycled in EU and EFTA countries in 2017, representing a total of more than 420,000 tons of aluminum.
However, the recycling success rates of aluminum beverage cans varies significantly between some nations. For example, Germany and Norway boast recycling rates of 99 and 98 percent respectively, while Romania and Portugal lag at 36 and 43 percent respectively.
Maarten Labberton, Director Packaging Group for European Aluminium, tells PackagingInsights that variations in the quality of the collection and sorting systems in place in EU and EFTA countries are the main reason for the contrasting recycling rates.
By Joshua Poole
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