Record volume of aluminium packaging recycled in the UK in 2020

2020 was a record year for aluminium packaging recycling in the UK.

Preliminary figures released by the Environment Agency (EA) on 11 January, analysed by the Aluminium Packaging Recycling Organisation (Alupro) show the volume of aluminium packaging collected for recycling in the UK reached its highest ever level.

While reprocessors and exporters have until the end of the month to report their final annual tonnage, data from the National Packaging Waste Database (NPWD) highlights that 145,035 tonnes of aluminium packaging were collected for recycling in the UK last year – a 24% increase compared to 2019 and exceeding the 2020 target by more than 26%.

Aluminium packaging collected through kerbside, bring and on-the-go systems increased year-on-year, while tonnage recovered from incinerator bottom ash also experienced a significant uplift.

While 2020 proved a ‘positive year’ for recycling rates across the board, aluminium set the standard by exceeding its obligation by a larger percentage than any other material.

Rick Hindley, executive director at Alupro, said: “While only preliminary figures, I was delighted to read the latest data published on the NPWD.

“The past 12 months have seen a significant increase in the volume of aluminium packaging collected for recycling, which should be seen as a considerable achievement.

“Alongside reaching its highest recycling rate on record, the industry has exceeded its obligated targets by more than 30,000 tonnes – a notable increase year-on-year and considerably higher than any other material type.

“Such an impressive increase is not only a direct impact of COVID-19, and the resulting national lockdowns, but also suggests increased public awareness about the widespread benefits of best practice aluminium recycling.

“Despite the challenges of the pandemic, we have continued to run our highly successful MetalMatters and Every Can Counts behavioural change programmes across multiple locations nationwide. Both have proven instrumental in engaging with householders about how quick, simple, and beneficial it is to recycle aluminium packaging.

“Looking ahead to the first quarter of 2021, we predict the ongoing impact of COVID-19 (and ongoing lockdown restrictions) to drive continually high aluminium packaging recycling rates.

“However, in line with the predicted return to work and schools, it’s important that we switch our positive habits from kerbside to on-the-go systems – this will prove instrumental to not only meeting obligated targets for 2021 but also realising our ambition of 100% recycling rates across the UK.”

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