Written evidence submitted by Alupro (PW0020)
Background on Alupro
Alupro is an industry funded, not-for-profit organisation with 30 years’ experience representing the UK’s aluminium packaging industry. We work to fulfil the industry’s obligation to meet, and exceed, recycling targets for aluminium packaging.
We are achieving this by working in partnership with local authorities, the waste management industry and the wider metal packaging sector to develop and stimulate the UK’s recycling collection infrastructure. We also manage and run consumer information and education campaigns to encourage participation in recycling schemes, including Every Can Counts and Metal Matters.
Alupro’s membership includes raw material suppliers, converters, brands and recyclers/exporters. The organisation has been consistently calling for higher recycling targets for aluminium.
Our objective is to achieve & surpass the highest aluminium packaging recycling rates in Europe in the most cost-effective way. Aluminium packaging is infinitely recyclable and we therefore believe that it is the perfect material for a truly circular economy.
2. How should alternatives to plastic consumption be identified and supported, without resorting to more environmentally damaging options?
Alupro strongly believes that aluminium should be supported by the Government as a viable alternative to plastic.
Unlike other materials, the intrinsic high value of infinitely recyclable aluminium packaging coupled with the significant energy savings achieved through recycling, means that there is strong and growing demand for recycled aluminium packaging. Nearly 75% of all aluminium ever produced worldwide is still in use today. Within 60 days, the aluminium packaging that consumers recycle could be back on supermarket shelves. Additionally, 88% of aluminium packaging collected in the UK is recycled within Europe, rather than being sent around the globe.
However, consumer education around aluminium recycling remains low. A 2020 survey of 1,500 UK respondents found that only 31% of people were aware that aluminium is infinitely recyclable. Alupro believes that the Government must make a sustained effort to promote the infinite recyclability of aluminium to both heighten consumer awareness and bolster the circular economy.
A recent report from Resource Futures forecast that the recycling rate for all aluminium packaging could reach 85% by 2025 and at least 90% by 2030. However, this depends on whether the right policies are introduced to support aluminium recycling. Whilst it is our vision to secure a 100% recycling rate for aluminium, this is a goal that can only be achieved through Government support for aluminium.
Ways in which the Government can encourage aluminium recycling – and, therefore, the continued use of aluminium – include the following:
If these changes are implemented at a nationwide level, there is a significant chance of reaching a 100% recycling rate for aluminium and ensuring that this infinitely recyclable material remains a key feature of the UK’s push towards a circular economy.
In addition, assessing environmental impact is a very costly and time-consuming process. Methodologies do exist to do this, through life cycle analysis, but results are rarely comparable and are subject to the interpretation of decisions made during their completion. Therefore, it is very difficult to transparently and fairly assess what a “least harmful” alternative to plastic may mean, and, if done properly, should account for the widest range of environmental indicators possible. Any analysis should cover the entire life cycle of a product, including the environmental benefits of recycling materials like metals which can be recycled infinitely with no loss of quality, meaning recycled metals can completely displace the need for the preparation of ‘new’ metal from ore. The ‘end-of-life’ benefits of recycling these so-called ‘permanent materials’ is often not well accounted for in existing analysis tools, so care must be taken to ensure any assessment into plastic alternatives takes account of these benefits as well.