Steel shows its strength

With steel packaging recycling rates reaching record levels in 2005, future growth now lies at the kerbside, says John May

For steel packaging recycling, 2005 was a landmark year. Data released by DEFRA in April showed that the steel packaging recycling rate reached a record level of 51.4% in 2005. Having significantly exceeded its 2005 target of 48%, steel has also already surpassed the 50% metals recycling target for 2008 set by the EU.

These figures give positive indications that steel is well on the way to achieving its UK target of 54% for 2008. This increase in steel packaging recycling can be attributed to the development of the recycling infrastructure to collect steel packaging from the domestic waste stream, and the fact that 90% of local authorities now have kerbside collection schemes that include steel.

Kerbside collection has fast become the most widespread method for the recycling of household waste. The reason is simple – it is the most convenient way for householders to do their bit.

Secure markets

For local authorities, including steel in these schemes is financially beneficial. And with used steel an essential part of the steel making process, there will always be a secure end market for steel packaging. It is estimated that the total value of the used steel packaging in the UK waste stream is some £40 million per annum.

Local authorities are reaping the benefits of collecting steel cans as the amount they receive for delivering cans to their local CanRoute centre has risen by 50% to £90 a ton. This rise in value is a result of an increase in worldwide demand for used steel.

There are currently 14 CanRoute centres located across the UK which are operated by leading steel processing companies which receive, check quality, store and bale steel cans before they are delivered in bulk to Corus for recycling.

The uptake of CanRoute has been steadily increasing due to its convenience for local authorities and the financial benefits it offers. In 2005, the scheme reach its highest level over the past six years, when it handled almost 36,341 tonnes of used steel packaging.

This tonnage is simply the Corus CanRoute tonnage; further cans are recycled by other reprocessors, and Corus also recycles cans magnetically recovered at energy-from-waste and other waste treatment plants.

Public push is key

To build on this impressive growth in steel packaging recycling, work is now being undertaken to increase awareness among the public of the numerous household packaging items that are made using steel and are therefore 100% recyclable.

There is still a significant volume of all types of packaging that can be recovered from the domestic waste stream, so industry focus must now turn to increasing participation in these kerbside schemes.

To achieve this, local authorities, industry and Government funded organisations – such as WRAP (the Waste & Resources Action Programme) – are working together.

In part, this will be done by raising awareness of the need and benefits of recycling, as well as highlighting what household items can be recycled through kerbside collection – in other words – how easy it is.

Now that the recycling infrastructure is in place for the collection and recovery of steel packaging, and with most areas now covered by a kerbside collection scheme, Corus is restructuring its steel packaging recycling unit to adopt a more centralised structure, rather than the regionalised approach it has operated to date.

John May is manager of Corus Steel Packaging Recycling

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