Grants awarded to boost beverage can recovery rates in the US

The recycling of used beverage cans in two US states will get a boost with grants to material recovery facilities (MRFs) that are being party funded by canmakers.

The grants will enable MRFs operated by Independent Texas Recyclers (ITR), based in Houston and Curbside Management, of Asheville, North Carolina, to install equipment that will result in 540 tons of aluminium – the equivalent of more than 36 million beverage cans – per year being captured that was previously lost and ending up in landfill.

The grant money provided to these two MRFs is being combined with other sources of funding at a ratio of more than one to ten.

The programme is organised by the US Can Manufacturers Institute (CMI) in conjunction with The Recycling Partnership, which helped select the grantees and will provide technical assistance to ensure successful implementation. It has been made possible with the support of canmakers Ardagh Group and Crown Holdings.

The ITR facility is a single-stream MRF serving the Houston area. It will put the grant funding toward installing a second eddy current system to capture UBCs from the containers in the residue line, which would otherwise be destined for landfill.

The Curbside Management facility is a single-stream MRF serving Asheville and surrounding communities and is the largest MRF in western North Carolina. It is replacing an existing eddy current system with more modern equipment that can more effectively sort aluminium packaging at the volume flowing through the facility.

First reported by The Canmaker in January this year, the programme builds on CMI research released last year that identified the importance of capturing all used beverage cans (UBCs) flowing through MRFs. This research concluded that most MRFs in the US would not be able to operate without the revenue from UBCs considering they are consistently the most valuable beverage package material in the recycling stream.

Due to the success of this initial round of grantees, a new round of applications to the pilot programme has been added. The deadline for the submission of applications is 11 May.

“It is important for the health of our nation’s recycling system to capture every aluminium beverage can for recycling,” said CMI president Robert Budway. “Aluminium beverage cans provide 33 per cent of the revenue to MRFs in non-deposit states, which is more than any other residential recyclable.

“Additionally, CMI beverage can members, Ardagh and Crown, want all used cans back to make them into new cans using the infinitely recyclable aluminium. Capturing missorted cans at the MRF is a cost-effective way to capture the valuable aluminium from cans. The return on investment of capturing incremental used can volumes is so high that additional equipment MRFs install will pay for itself in a short period of time.”

Rich Simon, director of MRF advancement at The Recycling Partnership, added: “As one of the founding organisations of what would become The Recycling Partnership, we are grateful to CMI’s continued dedication to improving the US residential recycling system, ensuring that more used beverage cans are sorted and recycled, creating healthier, more efficient, and more cost-effective programmes at scale.

“With The Partnership’s extensive expertise in grant programmes – including other recent grants with MRFs – and our systemic approach to improving residential recycling, we will ensure this programme achieves its goals of recycling more aluminium cans and improving the US residential recycling system.”

Compared with other countries around the world in particular, Germany at 99 per cent, followed closely by Brazil, Norway, Finland and Belgium at around 98 per cent aluminium beverage can recycling rates in the US are comparatively low, at less than 50 per cent.