Steel Packaging Recycling Reaches 60%

Steel Packaging Recycling Reaches 60%

The steel packaging sector is celebrating its success in recycling following the announcement of an 8% increase in recycled material in 2002 compared to the previous year. The sector now recycles an average 60% of its materials throughout Europe, already reaching its voluntary target for the year 2005.

There is a variation in rates across Europe, with Belgium leading the way with a rate of 93%. Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden and Luxembourg all recycle between 70% and 80% of their steel packaging, followed by Norway and France, with 60% and 57% rates respectively.

At the lower end of the scale, but still well above the 15% mandatory minimum for 2005, are Italy (55%), Spain and Ireland (51%), the U.K. (42%), Finland (39%) and Portugal (28%).

There are a number of elements of Belgium's steel recycling system that have contributed to the country's success. There is a high rate of coverage for household collection services, with 90% of the population currently able to participate, Jean-Pierre Taverne, Environmental and Technical Affairs Manager at APEAL, the European steel packaging industry body, explained to edie. Taverne predicted that this coverage will rise to 100% by the end of 2004.

There is only one collection system for household waste and only one for industrial packaging waste, compared to the U.K., where there are a large number of systems. The Belgian model retains the spirit of competition through tendering for contracts. Taverne also pointed to the U.K. system of trading in packaging recycling notes (PRNs), which although good for promoting a low-cost system, may not be sufficient to create a recycling structure quickly. "It's a trade-off between efficiency and cost," he said.

Meanwhile, Portugal, although at the bottom of the steel packaging recycling league will certainly have an increase in its rate over the coming years as its systems become better established, said Taverne. An increase in incineration for cities will also increase steel recycling as magnetic separation either before or after incineration selects out the steel, so that it can be graded and sent to steel mills.

In Europe steel is the most recycled packaging material, followed by glass at 57% and paper at 52%. Plastic packaging trails a long distance behind, with only 15% recycled.

As would be expected, rates for steel packaging also vary across the world, although only Japan and South Africa exceed the EU average, with 86% and 63% recycling rates. The U.S. recycles at approximately the same rate as Europe, with a 59% rate, with Korea and Australia following behind at 47% and 43%.