Shining future for steel packaging recycling

Steel recycling rates are up all over Europe as the eastern states start to follow trends to the west and make better use of packaging that might otherwise have gone to waste.

Data collected from the EU and its near neighbours shows a healthy market for the recycling of cans, tins and other steel packaging.

Association of European Producers of Steel for Packaging (known by its French acronym APEAL) has, for the first time, collected figures analysing the recycling rates from all 25 countries of the union, as well as Romania, Bulgaria, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey.

According to the association’s data, over 2.3 million tonnes of steel packaging were recycled in Europe last year, representing an average recycling rate of 63%.

APEAL points to the fact that this is 6% higher than the tonnage recycled in the previous year as an indication that waste managers are making progress with their products.

Eastern Europe has upped its recycling rates significantly over the past year, with The Baltic States, Poland and Slovakia making the biggest gains.

Rates were up by over a third in Slovakia, while, although starting from a modest base line, Lithuania had managed to more than double its rates.

Belgium was top of the class, with a recycling rate for steel packaging at a not-far-from-perfect 92%.

According to APEAL, the rise in rates is partly down to the ability to collect steel using a wide range of waste management regimes, extracting it from mixed household waste, kerbside recycling rounds and bring-and-drop banks.

But, it says, the practicalities need to be backed up by legislation and EU support.

Philippe Wolper, managing director of the association, said: “In order to achieve a recycling society, EU laws should remain unequivocal about the environmental benefits of recycling and continue to support the efforts made by our industry to achieve high recycling performance.

“Ambiguous messages about the value of recycling could pave the way for Member States to promote economic instruments which totally disregard the contribution of highly recycled packaging materials towards the sustainable use of resources.

“In terms of environmental policy, it is of paramount importance that the Waste Framework Directive, which is currently being revised, continues to support recycling as an environmentally efficient recovery option with at least the same priority as reuse.”

Sam Bond

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