Mitigating the impact of discarded cans on the environment is simple: increase recycling rates. The industry has been performing well in this, and where rates could be improved it’s a matter of extending the practice of the better performing regions around the world. For example; matching the stellar recycling rates achieved in Brazil.

But what about the impact of canmaking plants on their surroundings? As the global canmaking fraternity meets in Denver, Colorado, for next month’s Cannex & Fillex de las Américas, one of the topics for discussion will likely be how to further minimise emissions from plants, and not just volatile organic compounds, but carbon dioxide in the waste gases of abatement processes.

The industry has a good record in replacement technology here, largely through the use of UV-cured coatings, but this hasn’t been widely adopted for two-piece beverage cans for a number of practical reasons.

One alternative has been the use of polyester laminates, applied by the canstock manufacturer, which have been used in Japan for beverage cans for more than a quarter of a century, and in lesser volumes elsewhere for food and aerosol cans.

Their adoption for drinks cans more widely has been dogged by what I’d call a lack of long-term thinking, and because it would take a root-and-branch change in the industry which would have to be reconciled with shareholders’ need for regular returns.

In China, because pollution problems have made factory emissions more of an issue, the change to polyester-laminated canstock is widespread. In this issue we describe one of the leading mills and its plans to add lamination capacity. Another is reported in the news.

Coating technology such as polyester dispersions, also discussed in this issue, will offer another solution. But will we soon have to start making more significant changes? Be in Denver and you will find out more.

John Nutting