Aluminum Recycling

Economically & Environmentally Sustainable

The aluminum industry supports federal and state policies that create incentives to increase the recycling of aluminum.  Aluminum is a perfect material for recycling and nearly 75 percent of the aluminum ever made is still in use today because of its infinite recyclability.

Virtually all of the aluminum used in cars, buildings, airplanes and similar industrial products is recycled. Additionally, consumer products like beverage containers are recycled at far higher rates than competing materials such as glass or plastic. And aluminum cans are made with an average of 68 percent recycled content -- far exceeding competitive packaging types.

Still, more remains to be done. Around $900 million worth of aluminum is buried each year in the U.S., largely due to lack of infrastructure and public education. For this reason, it is important that community policies encourage and facilitate recycling activity. Continuing to increase aluminum recycling not only helps the industry reduce its environmental footprint, but also helps society divert resources from landfills and save energy for future generations.

Through sensible legislation and regulation, the aluminum industry strongly believes that recycling policy must:

  • Drive increased participation in curbside and municipal recycling programs
  • Reduce the landfilling of recyclable products
  • Incorporate recognition of recycling benefits in energy and natural resources policy

Participation in Curbside & Municipal Recycling

About 40 percent of the U.S. aluminum supply comes from recycled, or secondary, aluminum.  The aluminum industry relies on the collection of used beverage containers and other fabricated aluminum to meet the demand for new aluminum products.  Because about half of the aluminum used each year in the United States comes from recycled metal, the aluminum industry works directly with local communities and the broader scrap market to increase participation in all forms of recycling.

Aluminum is by far the most valuable item in the recycling bin on a per-ton basis.  It effectively subsidizes less valuable items like glass and plastic.  Many municipal recycling programs would be far less viable without aluminum in the recycling stream.

Encouraging participation in curbside and municipal recycling programs is vital to the aluminum industry. For every five percent increase in consumer recycling, approximately $100 million in aluminum value is saved from landfills.

Policy Recognition for Recycling

The economics of aluminum recycling are green.  Recycling aluminum:

  • Saves energy
  • Reduces greenhouse gas emissions
  • Keeps valuable aluminum out of landfills
  • Increases the efficiency of aluminum production

Producing recycled, or secondary, aluminum saves more than 90 percent of the energy and produces just eight percent of the greenhouse gases associated with making new, or primary, aluminum.  Energy efficiency and recycling are intrinsically linked, and policymakers should consider the energy savings from recycling aluminum when developing energy and natural resources policy.

The aluminum industry will continue to engage with the federal government and regulators on common sense policy to ensure continued growth in recycling nationwide.

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