Steel packaging recycling exceeds targets by nearly four times

In 2001, 1.9 million tonnes of steel packaging were recycled in Europe, around 55% of the total produced, three times the target for the year, and an increase of 15% from the previous year. Europe now recycles ten times more steel packaging than it did a decade ago.

The EU’s packaging directive demanded that by the end of June 2001 each packaging material should achieve a minimum recycling rate of 15%. According to data from the end of 2001 compiled by the Association of European Producers of Steel for Packaging (APEAL), around 55% of the steel packaging entering the market in the EU had been recycled.

The big achievers of 2001 included Italy, where steel packaging recycling rose from 26% in 2000 to 44%; Spain, with an increase from 33% to 46%; and Portugal, with an increase from 16% to 28%. Ireland’s reported recycling rate rose phenomenally from 16% to 66% although this was due to improved statistical coverage.

At the top of the tree for steel packaging recycling is Belgium, with 88% recycled, followed by Germany (78%), The Netherlands and Austria (77%), Sweden (71%) and Switzerland (70%). Norway, Denmark and France were middle-ranking countries, each achieving around 55%, followed by the UK (37%), Portugal (28%) and Finland (25%).

Europe’s success has been repeated elsewhere in the world, with Japan recycling 85%, South Africa nearly 64%, the US nearly 59%, Korea 53%, Australia 42% and Brazil around 40%.

Why are the recycling rates for steel packaging so high? Success lies in the ease with which it can be sorted, says APEAL. Automatic sorting of the ferrous fraction of household waste using electromagnets in incinerators and in sorting or composing centres makes it possible to minimise costs. The recovered packaging can be put to further use without needing specific collection systems.

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