Aluminum Recycling

Economically & Environmentally Sustainable

The aluminum industry supports federal and state policies that create incentives to increase the recycling of aluminum. 

Aluminum is an ideal material for the circular economy and more than 75 percent of the aluminum ever made is still in use today because it can be recycled over and over again. Virtually all of the aluminum used in cars, buildings, airplanes and similar industrial products is recycled. Additionally, consumer products like beverage containers are recycled at far higher rates than competing packages such as glass, plastic bottles, or multi-layer composite containers. 

Still, more remains to be done. Around $800 million worth of aluminum is buried in landfills each year in the United States, largely in the aluminum can market. For this reason, it is important that state and local policies encourage and facilitate recycling activity. Continuing to increase aluminum recycling not only helps the industry reduce its environmental footprint, but also diverts valuable resources from landfills, saving energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions for future generations.

Aluminum recycling policy must:

  • Drive increased participation in curbside and municipal recycling programs through increased access to convenient recycling
  • Reduce the landfilling of recyclable products
  • Incorporate recognition of recycling benefits in energy, solid waste, and infrastructure policy

 

Participation in Curbside & Municipal Recycling

Around 80 percent of U.S. aluminum production involves making recycled, or secondary, aluminum. The aluminum industry relies on the collection of used beverage containers and other fabricated aluminum to meet the demand for new aluminum products. The aluminum industry works with the broader scrap and recycling industries to increase participation in all forms of recycling.

Aluminum is by far the most valuable item in the recycling bin on a per-ton basis.  Its inherent value supports municipal recycling programs across the country and helps programs stay viable at a time when other scrap markets have been dampened by low market demand, a situation exacerbated by China’s National Sword policy. Encouraging participation and decreasing contamination in curbside and municipal recycling programs is vital to the aluminum industry. For every five percent increase in consumer recycling, approximately $100 million in aluminum value is saved from landfills.

 

Policy Recognition for Recycling

The economics of aluminum recycling are green.  Recycling aluminum:
 
  • Creates jobs
  • Saves energy
  • Reduces greenhouse gas emissions
  • Keeps valuable aluminum out of landfills
  • Increases the efficiency of aluminum production
     
Producing recycled, or secondary, aluminum saves more than 90 percent of the energy and produces just eight percent of the greenhouse gases associated with making new, or primary, aluminum. Energy efficiency and recycling are intrinsically linked, and policymakers should consider the energy savings from recycling aluminum when developing energy and natural resources policy.
 
The aluminum industry also supports consideration of recycling as an important element within a comprehensive infrastructure policy.
 
The industry will continue to engage with the federal government and regulators on common sense policy to ensure continued growth in recycling nationwide, and to support the expansion of effective municipal recycling programs to recover more of this important natural resource. This could include consideration of a national recycling policy.

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