The aluminium can industry has refuted recent claims by Coca-Cola that recycled PET bottles have a “much lower” carbon footprint than the aluminium can.
The Can Manufacturers Institute (CMI) says the carbon footprint of both containers is “comparable”, and the aluminium can performs “significantly better” than the plastic PET bottle on critical sustainability metrics, including recycling rate, recycled content and economic value.
The statement comes after Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey’s said the recycled PET bottle has a “much lower” carbon footprint than the aluminium can.
“A recycled PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottle has a much lower carbon footprint than an aluminium can or a returned glass bottle,” Quincey told Reuters news agency.
In response, the CMI released a statement saying aluminium beverage cans are the “most recycled drinks package in the world”.
Most all recycled cans being transformed into new cans has a positive environmental impact. When an aluminium can is produced from recyclable material, it saves more than 90% of the energy used
“The average aluminium can in the United States has a recycled content of 73%,” said CMI President Robert Budway. “This is significantly higher than plastic PET bottles in the United States, which have less than 10% recycled content.
“Most all recycled cans being transformed into new cans has a positive environmental impact. When an aluminium can is produced from recyclable material, it saves more than 90% of the energy used and greenhouse gas emissions produced in comparison to making that same aluminium can from virgin material.”
In the US, the recycling rate for the aluminium beverage can is 50%, whereas the recycling rate for the PET bottle is 26%, according to CMI.
The recycling rate for aluminium cans is high in other parts of the world, including Europe (75%).
The CMI says the aluminium can also has a high economic value. A recent two-year average shows in the scrap market aluminium cans are worth more than four times PET bottles in the US.
Budway added: “This high economic value means recyclers want the aluminium cans back so they can get desperately needed revenue to support the rest of the recycling system. In other words, aluminium cans help support the recycling of many other less economically viable materials.”
“All these metrics together mean the beverage can is the only container that consumers can recycle with the confidence that their package will actually be recycled into a new, recyclable product and that their action will have a significant environmental impact,” Budway stated.
“The can’s advantage in these metrics also mean the aluminium can is the container that can most help brands meet their ambitious sustainability goals including higher recycled content and increased recycling rates for their beverage packaging.”