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Study: Aluminum Cans Still Sustainable Beverage Package of Choice

December 17, 2014

20 Percent Drop in Carbon Footprint; Recycled Content Reaches 70 Percent

Click here to view an infographic on the report.

    ARLINGTON, VA – Aluminum cans, already the most recycled and recyclable beverage container on the market, just got even more sustainable according to a report by environmental research firm PE International. The report, which updates a prior life cycle assessment study released in 2010, shows that an aluminum can made in the U.S. and Canada today:

    • Has improved its carbon footprint by 20 percent and requires 14 percent less energy to manufacture. 
    • Contains 70 percent recycled content on average in every can produced in the US, at least three times U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates of the recycled content in glass (23 percent) and plastic/PET (3 percent) bottles.[i]
    • Is 2 percent lighter (13.34 grams à 13.04 grams)[ii], and remains the lightest beverage package option available.  Less material means less fuel for transport and less waste… creating less environmental impact.

    “This new data reinforces the tremendous sustainability advantages when consumers choose to enjoy their beverage of choice from an infinitely recyclable aluminum can,” said Heidi Brock, President & CEO of the Aluminum Association. “No other beverage package goes from the recycling bin back on the shelf in as few as 60 days – and now they are made using less energy and more recycled content.”

    Click here to view a technical briefing on the report.

    The new report was completed by environmental research firm PE International and updates a full life cycle assessment (LCA) study released in 2010 called Life Cycle Impact Assessment of Aluminum Beverage Cans. The updated data is based on a survey of can sheet producers and can manufacturers representing nearly 100 percent of production in 2012 in the United States and Canada.

    “Aluminum cans have always been the sustainable package of choice – and that’s truer today than ever before,” added Brock. “This is one reason we are seeing so many craft brewers and other brands with environmentally-conscious consumers choose cans. Cans are durable, lightweight and recycled everywhere – the perfect package for those with an outdoor lifestyle that care about preserving the environment.”

    The report models aluminum can production using two different LCA methods – the “Avoided Burden” or “Closed Loop” approach and the “Recycled Content” approach. Under both scenarios, the can has made significant progress improving its environmental performance. Increased energy efficiency across the industry as well as engineering enhancements to the can and more recycling all helped drive the improved performance.

    The comprehensive life cycle assessment analyzes the entire can-making process and incorporates the latest information on energy use, recycling rates, material consumption and other aspects of production. The original LCA study, which this report updates, complies with all ISO standards and was peer reviewed by experts from the Society of Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry and the Environmental Protection Agency. The report updates results released in 2010 that reported on data from a baseline production year of 2006.

    To view the original and updated LCA report for the aluminum beverage can please visit www.aluminum.org/sustainabilityreports.

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    About the Aluminum Association
    The Aluminum Association represents U.S. and foreign-based companies and their suppliers throughout the value chain, from primary production to value added products to recycling.  The Association is the industry’s leading voice, providing global standards, business intelligence, sustainability research and industry expertise to member companies, policymakers and the general public. The aluminum industry helps manufacturers produce sustainable and innovative products, including more fuel efficient vehicles, recyclable packaging, greener buildings and modern electronics.  In the U.S., the aluminum industry creates $152 billion in economic activity. For more information visit www.Aluminum.org, on Twitter @AluminumNews or at Facebook.com/AluminumAssociation 

     

    [i] Data for glass and plastic via the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Individual Waste Reduction Model (WARM): http://epa.gov/epawaste/conserve/tools/warm/pdfs/Glass.pdf
    http://epa.gov/epawaste/conserve/tools/warm/pdfs/Plastics.pdf

    [ii] Note that more recent data shows that the weight of the average can has declined further to 12.98 grams.

     

       

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