Aluminum Association Sets Industry-Wide Recycling Goal

Aluminum Association Sets Industry-Wide Recycling Goal

By 2015, the Aluminum Association wants to be recovering 75 percent of aluminum containers made in the United States. The industry is currently collecting and recycling about 54 percent.

Along with the fact that aluminum can be continuously recycled, finding a new use for old cans is attractive to industry because it also takes much less energy to produce a recycled aluminum can than source a new one from raw materials. Raising the aluminum can recycling rate to 75 percent would avoid nearly 10 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Aluminum Association.

The industry's recycling rate has been as high as 69 percent in the past, later declined down to 50 percent and has gradually increased little by little.

To raise the recycling rate, the Aluminum Association plans to increase public education, help expand the recycling infrastructure and explore new policies. Areas of focus will include both voluntary and mandatory recycling programs such as curbside recycling and landfill bans, and deposit legislation. States with deposits on recyclables have the highest can recycling rates, around 74 percent or higher, compared to the average 38 percent recycling rate for states without deposits.

But as the industry attempts to flow more materials into the recycling stream, many recyclers, at least for now, are having a hard time findings something to do with their collections.

The global market for recyclables has seen a steep drop in demand and prices for plastic, paper and metal. A parade of news reports from around the country have shown in state after state that municipalities and recyclers are getting much less for materials than they were just a few months ago, if they can even find buyers.

Metro Metals Northwest, based in Portland, Ore., has started stockpiling tin cans and seen the prices for metals like aluminum, copper and iron drop 75 percent, The Oregonian reported. Some states and cities are better positioned to deal with lower demand, though. Portland's recycling sorting plants are near paper mills, its recycling programs are set up in ways that result in bundles that are uncontaminated (and therefore more attractive to buyers), and it's so far cheaper to give away recyclables than pay to dump them at landfills.

Athens, Tenn., has had to take a different approach. The city put its plastic collection program, started last February, on hiatus this month because of low demand for post consumer plastic and low petroleum prices.