Recycling rates are going down.

CanCrushedJust read a piece on the Packaging World eClip newsletter that mentions aluminum cans are the most recycled of all beverage containers. Sounds good so far, right.

Well, maybe not. It goes on to say that 54.8% of all aluminum beverage containers are recycled. Doesn’t seem like good news to me. This suggests that 45.2% of all aluminum beverage containers end up landfilled, littered or incinerated. And this is the best beverage container.

In fact Robert Budway, President of the Can Manufacturers Institute sounds very upbeat announcing the news. He says “”This shows recycling rates for cans (are) strong and can makers are committed to their continual increase.”

Well actually no. I did a little checking and it turns out that aluminum beverage container recycling rates are down about 15% to 20% in the last 10 years, depending on what measure you use. And these are industry statistics from The Aluminum Association. In 1998 about 64 million cans were collected and 62.8% of were recycled. In 2008 53 million were collected and 54% were recycled. Seems to me the numbers are heading in the wrong direction.

And if aluminum is best, what’s the news for glass or PET. Here are the 2006 numbers according to the Container Recycling Institute, the US totals are as follows, they say aluminum is recycled at a 45% rate, PET plastic at 23%, and glass bottles at 35%. It is interesting to note that in the 11 deposit states, the recycling rate is almost double the national average.


About Richard Shear

designer, husband, teacher, blogger, father, athlete, author, historian Richard has over 25 years of brand identity and package design experience, with a wide range of clients such as Ahold, Coca-Cola, Hasbro, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Pernod Ricard and Procter & Gamble. He began his career working with the legendary advertising art director, and AIGA Medalist, George Lois and the British design manager Clive Chajet. In his next design management position at Lippincott & Margulies, he worked with Walter Margulies learning the complex skills of global corporate identity. He then became Creative Director and Partner at Peterson & Blyth, one of the premier brand identity and package design firms of the time. He is a founding faculty member of the Masters in Branding Program at New York’s School of Visual Arts. He publishes the blog The Package Unseen, and has been a guest lecturer at colleges including FIT, Trinity College and Tyler School of Art. He is a graduate of the Tyler School of Art at Temple University. Richard is a Board member of the AIGA MetroNorth Chapter, past President of AIGA‘s Brand Design Association, President of the Package Design Council and a member of its Board of Directors. He is a member of USA Cycling and US Rowing, a nationally ranked masters bicycle racer, and a member of The Saugatuck Rowing Club, the 2010 Masters Club National Champion.
This entry was posted in Beverages, Environmental Packaging, Wine, Beer, & Spirits and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Recycling rates are going down.

  1. Kudos for the due diligence. I saw that story and it didn’t even occur to me to question it as “spin.”

  2. Pingback: Aluminum wine bottle advantages « The Package Unseen

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