Aluminium looks to score away from home

On the home front, aluminium packaging recycling is a success story - attention now needs to be paid to the away-from-home sector, notes Cherry Hamson

With 99% of aluminium packaging recycling in the hands of consumers, the drive for higher participation rates in the household waste stream can now be seen to be paying off. Recycling results from the first two quarters of 2006 show a big increase of 23% over the same period in 2005, with a total 23,536 tonnes recycled (19,146 tonnes in 2005). And whole year results in 2005 were themselves up 21% on 2004.

Recycling makes sound economic as well as environmental sense for aluminium, with up to 95% energy saved each time the metal is remelted, rather than made from primary aluminium. And with new cans often back on the shelf just six weeks after they have been given for recycling, the energy savings quickly accumulate.

The challenge now is to persuade more people to recycle. On this front, not-for-profit organisation Alupro is engaging directly with the public and helping local authorities to promote recycling. One campaign – Trees for the UK/Trees for Africa – involves 300 LAs who have signed up to feature aluminium prominently in their kerbside collection programmes, with the promise of a free native tree for every tonne of aluminium collected.

Capturing hearts and minds

This undertaking, which uses the published PRN/PERN data as its basis, has really caught the public imagination, and made a significant contribution to the increased tonnage. The trees, chosen for their food and medicinal uses, are grown in special nurseries and are given to African people in local forest communities.

With targets of 50,000 trees for Africa and 10,000 trees for the UK, the campaign is making a significant contribution to the environment and will hopefully be a long-term commitment. Two LA representatives are being chosen to visit the African project in Burkina Faso, to see how the tree-planting initiative is progressing, and will be reporting back early in 2007.

The next major challenge for aluminium is the away-from-home sector. Around 30,000 tonnes of aluminium drinks cans, worth around £25M, are thought to be consumed in places which do not generally receive recycling services, such as the workplace, sports and leisure facilities and travel locations.

Alupro has lobbied persistently to get attention paid to this important sector. Now people can recycle at home, there is increasing demand to be able to recycle wherever drinks packaging is being discarded. In 2003, just 14% of enquiries to Alupro came from businesses, but this has now increased to 40%.

Consumer demand, coupled with corporate social responsibility for businesses, and indications from Government that they are taking workplace recycling seriously, make this the next big area for development. Alupro has trialled using its Trees for Africa campaign as an incentive for staff participation in some of the partnership programmes it has with recycling service providers, and is planning to build on that experience in 2007.

Cherry Hamson is communications director at Alupro

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