According to annual data published by the Environment Agency,* the UK’s aluminium packaging recycling rate was a record 68% in 2021, with more than 156,000 tonnes collected for recycling (a 3% rise year-on-year). More than four in five beverage cans were recycled last year (82%) – matching the previous record set in 2020.
Despite a growing domestic market, aluminium packaging collected through kerbside, bring and on-the-go systems increased by 5% (112,210), while tonnage recovered from incinerator bottom ash grew by 2% (41,941). More than 88% of this total volume was recycled within the UK and EU, with just 12% being exported for reprocessing further afield.
Tom Giddings, executive director at Alupro, commented: “It’s pleasing news indeed to report yet another record-breaking year for aluminium packaging recycling. While the total UK market size grew, recycling rates kept pace. More importantly still, the vast majority of material was collected through kerbside, bring and on-the-go systems, which maximised the potential for closed-loop recycling.
“In 2020, recycling rates shot up across the board, driven in the main by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting national lockdowns and mandatory working from home guidance. Many suggested that 2021 would see a natural drop in rates, due to gradually easing restrictions, so it’s positive to see that consumers continued to recycle their aluminium packaging in 2021 and maintained their good habits.
“Looking forward to the first quarter of 2022, we hope to see record rates continuing, reflecting the positive trends of 2021. With higher, more ambitious national targets, we’re pleased to be moving ever-closer towards a 100% recycling rate for aluminium packaging.
“As we do so, communication will prove ever-more pivotal in maintaining consumer engagement and maximising positive recycling behaviours. This is a key point included within our Aluminium Manifesto, which was released in March and calls for fundamental change in the UK’s approach to packaging and waste management.”
Chris Latham-Warde of Every Can Counts, Alupro’s communications programme aimed at driving drink can recycling, added: “A record-breaking recycling rate reflects ever-increasing public awareness about environmental issues and the widespread benefits of recycling. Over the past 12 months, Every Can Counts and also MetalMatters have continued to engage consumers throughout the UK and Ireland to make real inroads towards improving recycling rates at home and when on the go.
“With a full schedule of events and activity planned with partners this year, we expect the figures to be even more impressive in 2022.”
For more information about Alupro, or its MetalMatters and Every Can Counts behavioural change programmes, visit www.alupro.org.uk. To access the latest aluminium packaging recycling data, visit the National Packaging Waste Database (NPWD).