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[greenyes] CRI Press release: Industry Efforts Fail to Stem Tide of Aluminum Can Waste


Jenny Gitlitz (research director): (413) 684-4746; (413) 822-0115
Pat Franklin (executive director): (703) 276-9800; (703) 304-3546

Stemming the Tide of Trashed Aluminum Cans:
Industry Efforts Fall Flat

Arlington, VA--Data released late Friday by the Aluminum Association, an
industry trade group, reveal that the twelve-year trend of declining
aluminum can recycling shows no significant signs of reversing. The industry
group reported a can recycling rate of 51.2% in 2004, up from a reported
50.0% in 2003. The latest reported recycling rate is 17 percentage points
below the peak rate of 68% reported by the Aluminum Association in 1992.

In accordance with methods used by the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency,* the non-profit environmental group Container Recycling Institute
(CRI) has calculated that the recycling rate was actually 45.1% in 2004, up
less than a full percentage point from 44.3% in 2003. On a per capita basis,
CRI said that 3 cans more were recycled per American in 2004 than in 2003.
Total consumption (sales) was 341 cans per capita in both years.

CRI research director Jenny Gitlitz noted that 55 billion aluminum cans were
wasted (not recycled) in 2004, 9 billion more than were wasted in
2000--810,000 tons of metal that is either buried in a landfill; burned in
an garbage incinerator; or littered along the nation¹s roads, parks and
beaches. ³To visualize 55 billion wasted cans,² Gitlitz said, ³imagine the
Empire State Building filled with cans twenty times. It is a quantity
equivalent to the annual production of 3-4 major primary aluminum smelters.²

CRI charges that efforts by the aluminum industry and the beverage industry
to promote can recycling on the national scene have failed to achieve
significant results.

³Three years ago, the industry formed the ?Aluminum Can Council¹ to address
falling recycling rates,² said Gitlitz, ³and despite the group¹s
activities--including a Mayor¹s ?Cans for Cash¹ Challenge, a program to
recycle cans through Habitat for Humanity, and a kid-friendly website
featuring Jimmy Neutron?the tide of aluminum can waste has not been stemmed.
These public relation campaigns, and other efforts over the past decade,
have had a negligible impact on recycling.²

³The industry insists that curbside recycling and better public relations
can get their message across and spur citizens to recycle more,² said Pat
Franklin, CRI executive director, ³but they remain obstinate about
acknowledging the only program proven to recycle 70-90% of the cans sold in
any given market: the deposit system.²

³Despite a tripling in U.S. curbside access during the 1990¹s,² Franklin
said, ³aluminum can recycling rates have been trending down, due primarily
to away-from-home consumption,² she said. ³People drinking sodas in the car
or at work just aren¹t going to bring their empties home to their blue bins.
It¹s the financial incentive of a 5- or 10¢ deposit that makes all the

The number of new curbside programs being developed in American cities has
also plateaued due to the high taxpayer costs of running them. Indianapolis
is the most recent large U.S. city to consider canceling its curbside
program due to low citizen participation and high operating cost.

Environmental Effects of ³Replacement Production:²

In addition to the aesthetic and public health impacts of litter, each can
that is landfilled or burned instead of recycled must be replaced with an
equivalent can made from 100% virgin materials.

³The direct and indirect environmental impacts of replacing 810,000 tons of
wasted aluminum cans include about 3.5 million tons of unnecessary
greenhouse gas emissions; tens of thousands of tons of SOx and NOx
emissions; strip mining over 3 million tons of bauxite; and a host of other
industrial activities and pollutants in environmentally-sensitive habitats
worldwide,² Gitlitz said.

Economic Consequences of Inadequate Recycling:

Franklin said that there are also many lost business opportunities from the
failure to recycle these 55 billion cans. ³At today¹s prices, the cans
trashed in 2004 could have fetched about $940 million. It¹s money down the
drain, energy down the drain, and resources down the drain. We call on the
aluminum and beverage industries to implement dramatic efforts to increase
recycling to 75% or above?rates that are common in deposit states?and a goal
the industry set for itself in 1993.²

* CRI and the US EPA deduct imported scrap cans from the total recycled,
since they are not sold in the U.S.., and should not count in the domestic
recycling rate. Export and import data are available from the U.S.
Department of Commerce.

# # #

About the Container Recycling Institute (CRI): CRI is a 501(c)3 non-profit
national organization that studies beverage container sales and recycling
trends, and promotes policies to reverse wasting. CRI provides technical
information and analysis to students, activists, policymakers, and the
media. The organization is supported primarily by foundations, with support
from businesses, organizations and individuals.


Jennifer Gitlitz
Research Director, Container Recycling Institute

Home Office:
2 Pomeroy Ave.
Dalton, MA 01226
Tel. (413) 684-4746
Mobile: (413) 822-0115
Fax: (413) 403-0233
Email: jgitlitz@no.address

Please note the new address for CRI¹s main office:
Container Recycling Institute
1601 North Kent St., Suite 803
Arlington, VA 22209-2105
Tel. (703) 276-9800
Fax: (703) 276-9587
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