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Industries in general need to be more responsible and good points are raised
What disapoints me is that at quick glance this appears to me and I assume
to most people that an aluminum can is bad - but what's the alternative?
Aside from refillable bottles...I still think the best beverage container is
aluminum over plastic (not a closed loop) and over glass (loosing value,
some recycling programs are slashing glass, and some of it is broken and not
sorted from commingled programs.)
Correct me if I'm wrong that plastic, glass, and aseptic are not better
choices when you look at overall life cycle. The aluminum industry sounds
like they have some work to do...But it's still the best choice.
Granted it's a personal issue that I'm tired of looking at plastic bottle
litter and that PA needs a bottle bill. When I see an aluminum can laying
on the street I know someone will pick it up to cash it in...The plastic
bottles just lay there.
From: GreenYes@no.address [mailto:GreenYes@no.address] On Behalf
Of Jenny Gitlitz
Sent: Wednesday, May 17, 2006 6:34 PM
To: firstname.lastname@example.org; GreenYes@no.address
Subject: [GreenYes] The Aluminum Can's Dirty Little Secret: CRI-IRN news
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 17, 2006
CONTACT: Jenny Gitlitz, CRI Research Dir., Dalton, MA (413) 684-4746
Pat Franklin, CRI Executive Dir., Washington, DC (703) 276-9800
Glenn Switkes, IRN Latin America Dir., Sao Paolo, Brazil 011.55.11.3822.4157
Peter Bosshard, IRN Policy Dir., Berkeley, CA (510) 848-1155
The Aluminum Can's Dirty Little Secret:
On-going Environmental Harm Outpaces the Metal's "Green" Benefits
WASHINGTON, DC (May 17, 2006)- Industry "greenwashing" obscures the real
environmental costs of aluminum production, according to the Container
Recycling Institute (CRI) and the International Rivers Network (IRN), two
non-profit environmental organizations.
According to CRI executive director Pat Franklin, optimistic data released
yesterday by the Aluminum Association, an industry trade group, has a dark
side. "The Association reported an increase of less than one percentage
point in the national aluminum can recycling rate-from 51.2 to 52.0
percent," she said, "but they failed to mention that we still are trashing
800,000 tons of aluminum beverage cans a year." Franklin said this was
equivalent to the annual output of 3-4 major primary aluminum smelters.
"Frankly, I was surprised to see how slight the increase was, given the
record-breaking prices for scrap aluminum cans in 2005," she noted, adding
that the actual number of cans collected last year (51.4 billion) was 100
million fewer than the number collected in 2004 (51.5 billion).
The beverage and aluminum industries tout the can as "the most recyclable"
package in America, said Jennifer Gitlitz, CRI research director. "But
recyclable doesn't necessarily mean recycled. More than half of the 99
billion cans sold in the U.S. last year were landfilled or incinerated."
Gitlitz said a similar amount wasn't recycled in other countries, for a
global total of about 1.5 million tons of wasted cans.
"These trashed cans must be replaced with new cans made entirely from virgin
materials," Gitlitz said, "and that is where the environmental damage
She cited bauxite mining and processing as a major source of water
pollution. "Each ton of aluminum cans requires 5 tons of bauxite ore to be
strip-mined, crushed, washed, and refined into alumina before it is
smelted," she explained. "The process creates about 5 tons of caustic red
mud residue which can seep into surface and groundwater," said Gitlitz.
People and animals have suffered from the effects of bauxite mining in
Jamaica, Brazil, Australia, and other tropical areas, she noted.
"We're talking about immense energy consumption," said Gitlitz. "3% of the
electricity generated worldwide goes to aluminum. While aluminum companies
often cite big savings from recycling, they fail to mention that at current
wasting levels, about 23 billion kilowatt-hours are squandered globally each
year through 'replacement production.' About 7 kWh are saved per pound (33
cans) recycled. Had the billions of cans trashed been recycled, the
electricity saved could power 1.3 million American homes."
According to the International Aluminum Institute, about a third of the
primary aluminum produced worldwide uses coal-generated electricity, 10%
relies on oil and natural gas-fired electricity generation, 5% is nuclear
powered, and about half uses hydroelectricity (dams). In total, the
industry's annual electricity consumption is almost 300 billion
kilowatt-hours, or about 3% of the world's total electricity consumption.
Much of the electricity used by the industry is available at below-market
prices. According to Glenn Switkes, Latin America director of the
Berkeley-based International Rivers Network, "Aluminum companies are
relocating to the tropics because governments in developing countries are
providing them with subsidized hydroelectricity. These dams have
irreversible impacts on biodiversity, and displace thousands of riverbank
dwellers and indigenous peoples." Aluminum companies are the principal force
behind the Brazilian government's plans to dam the major rivers of the
Amazon, he said.
"Valuable ecosystems on every continent have been destroyed for the
convenience of the aluminum industry and consumers," added Peter Bosshard,
Policy Director of International Rivers Network. "Hydropower dams linked to
aluminum smelters have flooded vast tracts of land, displaced tens of
thousands of people, and created unsustainable debt burdens for poor
countries." He cited the Karahnjukar Dam in Eastern Iceland and the Akosombo
Dam in Ghana as two particularly egregious examples of destructive
Another dirty secret, according to CRI, is aluminum's contribution to
climate change. About 95 million tons of greenhouse gases were produced by
the global aluminum industry in 2005.
"While the industry as a whole has made laudable technical improvements to
reduce greenhouse emissions for each ton of primary aluminum produced,"
Gitlitz said, "it has consistently failed to eliminate the portion of
greenhouse gasses that come from replacing 1.5 million tons of trashed cans
with new ones made from virgin materials--that is to say--from bauxite and
Primary aluminum smelting also generates sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide
emissions, which are contributors to smog and acid rain. "Had the cans
wasted in 2005 been recycled," Gitlitz said, "they would have avoided the
emission of 75,000 tons of SOx and NOx."
"The Aluminum Association's press release is about the national average
aluminum can recycling rate," Franklin observed. "But the eleven U.S.
states with beverage container deposit laws (or "bottle bills") recycle
75-95% of cans all sold. States without deposits only recycle 35% of cans
"This means that there is already a realistic policy option to combat
container waste," Franklin said, "but it has not been adopted more widely
due to industry lobbying, public relations, and lip service."
"The beverage industry spends millions each year to combat deposit
legislation, while we continue to trash 5 out of every 10 cans sold,"
Franklin said. "If container and beverage producers won't accept
responsibility for managing their can waste, Americans need to ask their
state legislators to do the job."
# # #
Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Container Recycling Institute is a
non-profit (501c3) organization that analyzes beverage container sales,
recycling, and wasting trends, and advocates policy measures to increase
recycling and reduce the environmental damages from container production and
Headquartered in Berkeley, CA, the International Rivers Network protects
rivers and defends the rights of communities that depend on them. IRN
opposes destructive dams and the development model they advance, and
encourages better ways of meeting people's needs for water, energy and
protection from destructive floods.
For more information, see the CRI report, "Trashed Cans: the Global
Environmental Impacts of Aluminum Can Wasting in America," a free download:
and the IRN report, "Foiling the Aluminum Industry: A Toolkit for
Communities, Activists, Consumers, and Workers," available at:
For more data and graphics on Aluminum's Dirty Little Secret, please visit
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