US aluminum can recycling declined in 2001
NEW YORK - U.S. recycling of aluminum beverage cans fell below a 60 percent rate last year for the first time in more than a decade, a trade association said.
Lower production and reduced consumer attention to recycling are two obvious factors that led to a sharp drop in can recycling, but why that would be the case and whether there are additional factors involved in the decline is being investigated, the Aluminum Association said.
Another likely explanation for the lower rate is that a steep decline in the price of aluminum in the last two years meant recyclers are no longer able to cover costs of hauling the recycled material, industry experts said.
The association said yesterday that about 55.6 billion aluminum beverage cans were recycled last year, about 11.2 percent fewer than in 2000. The percent of aluminum cans collected, or the recycled rate, was 55.4 percent in 2001.
While in 20 of the past 21 years at least 50 percent of used beverage cans (UBC) were recycled, the pace had been above 60 percent since 1989, and was as high as 67.9 percent in 1992, according to statistics compiled by the Aluminum Association, the Can Manufacturers Institute and the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries.
Last year\'s recycle rate was 6.7 percent less than the 2000 pace of 62.1 percent cans collected.
Aluminum can collection by weight also fell last year, dropping 12 percent to 1,665,000 lb (755,200 kg), including UBC scrap imports melted in the United States.
In the United States, the association said, 100.3 billion cans were produced, a decline of 0.5 percent on the year.
Industry experts have said aluminum can recycling requires 95 percent less energy than producing aluminum from ore.
Moreover, experts have said that every bit of aluminum that is recycled gets used. Nearly half of each aluminum can is made from recycled aluminum.
\"Our member companies are on a mission to encourage consumer aluminum can recycling,\" said Brian Sturgell, chairman of the Aluminum Association and Executive Vice President at Alcan Inc. , world\'s second-largest aluminum producer.
The aluminum and can manufacturing industry have lead various initiatives to turn aluminum cans into cash for community causes, as one way to encourage more consumers to recycle cans. For example, the Aluminum Association\'s partnership with Habitat for Humanity uses money earned from recycled aluminum to help build low-income homes.
\"If consumers recycled even half of the 44 billion cans that went un-recycled last year, and contributed the money to Aluminum Cans Build Habitat for Humanity Homes volunteers could build 5,000 new homes for needy families,\" Sturgell said.
The association said it assumes one penny will be paid per UBC and that the average U.S. Habitat home costs $45,000.
In 2001, the group also said, the number of cans produced from one pound of aluminum rose by 0.8 percent.
Can manufacturers continue to produce lighter weight cans, in order to make more beverage cans with less aluminum, the manufacturers\' group said.
Over the last six years, manufacturers said they produced a 10 percent savings in the number of cans per lb. by so-called lightweighting.
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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