It all adds up with Aerofoil

A new package of support for councils adding aerosols and aluminium foil to their kerbside collections has been launched. Rick Hindley outlines the benefits.

We all know that certain brands of aerosol make you irresistible to the opposite sex – just spray generously and random passers-by will fight to fall at your feet. But for metals reprocessors, and the collectors that supply them, the attraction is much more tangible.

With around 30,000 tonnes of aerosols and 16,000 tonnes of aluminium foil containers on the market per year, there’s a lot of valuable additional steel and aluminium out there. And that material is worth money. According to a good practice guide from WRAP, aluminium commands the highest price per tonne for kerbside-collected recyclate, so small amounts of it can yield cost savings for those councils that have a revenue sharing agreement with their MRF or aggregation centre.

Consumer demand

The public is also calling for these materials to be recycled. According to research conducted for aluminium packaging recycling organisation Alupro in 2009, 84% of consumers in areas that did not have a recycling collection for aerosols and foil reported that, given the opportunity, they would recycle them. Couple this demand with high value material sales and the need to drive recycling to hit packaging recovery targets, aluminium foil trays and aerosols present a good option for increasing the number of materials collected at the kerbside.

Over half of local authorities already collect aerosol cans or aluminium foil. For those that haven’t yet included the materials in their kerbside schemes, Alupro has launched a campaign – Aerofoil – aimed at giving councils and waste management companies the technical know-how and communications tools to implement successful collections. It’s early days yet, but so far the response has been good.

For many local authorities, the infrastructure for collecting aluminium and steel drinks cans is already there, so adding high value foil trays and aerosols is a low cost of way of expanding kerbside programmes. The environmental benefits are also obvious – metals are 100% recyclable, which means that carbon savings increase every time they pass through the recycling loop.

Alupro is also working with the British Aerosol Manufacturers’ Association to offer advice on the handling of materials, including technical support for council waste management departments, contractors and MRF operators. Those councils seeking markets for aerosols and aluminium foil can include steel aerosols with the mixed steel packaging stream. They also have the option of selling mixed aluminium cans, aerosols and clean foil together, or separating the foil out to aim for higher value markets.

Among the 25 local authorities already signed up to the scheme is Epping Forest District Council. The council had always wanted to include foil in its co-mingled collection, but had doubts over the safety of collecting aerosols. Following a meeting with Alupro, the authority approached its contractor, which confirmed that as long as the public was clear on basic issues, like making sure aerosol cans were empty and foil clean, they could add the materials without any changes to the configuration of the MRF.

Consistency is key

Consistent messages are crucial to the success of any new scheme, so those councils launching a new service will be able to download material from an online library of resources including advertising templates and an image library. They can also access PR resources such as template press releases and copy to include in updated web pages, with supporting material for roadshows. The communications reinforce the message that aerosols need to be empty, not pierced or squashed, and foil should be clean. The Alupro campaign is funded by various stakeholders including Unilever and the British Aerosol Manufacturers’ Association.

Rick Hindley is executive director at Alupro

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