2021 ‘record year’ for UK aluminium packaging recycling

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The UK’s aluminium packaging recycling rate has risen by 3% year on year, according to recent figures.

Data published by the Environment Agency shows the aluminium packaging recycling rate was a record 68% in 2021, with more than 156,000 tonnes collected for recycling.

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.

“It’s pleasing news indeed to report yet another record-breaking year for aluminium packaging recycling,” said Tom Giddings, executive director at Alupro. “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 rose across the board, said Giddings, driven mainly by the impact of the 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,” commented Giddings, “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 evermore 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.”

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