Steel packaging recycling rate hits a record 84 per cent in Europe

Alexis Van Maercke, secretary general of APEAL

Recycling of steel packaging, including tinplate cans, in Europe hit a record high of 84 per cent in 2019, European packaging steel industry body APEAL has reported.

It was the ninth consecutive year in which the recycling rate has increased, and the 2019 rate represents an increase of 1.5 percentage points on the previous year.

“Once again, this strong recycling performance highlights steel as one of the most sustainable packaging solutions available,” said Alexis Van Maercke, secretary general of APEAL, which represents the five producers of packaging steel in Europe.

“As APEAL continues to work closely with the European Commission, European Parliament and member states to deliver the Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP) 2.0, this latest record recycling rate also sends a clear message to all stakeholders in the value chain, that steel for packaging is tried, tested and perfectly suited to a 21st century circular economy.”

Van Maercke added: “Increased separate collection is a key driver for increased recycling, with notable increases in countries such as Italy and Poland attributed to increased separate collection and greater public awareness of the benefits of steel recycling.” 

APEAL believes that more can be done, however, and earlier this year announced its 2025 vision for recycling: zero steel packaging to landfill. The 2025 Vision will be supported by action in four key areas, identified by the association as critical in the drive to prevent steel packaging being diverted from recycling and wasted. These include a continued focus on optimising separate waste collection, establishing a scrap quality standard, the collection and sorting of steel closures and designing for recyclability.

A new recycling rate objective, in line with the new EU calculation methodology, is set to be revealed later this year. Applicable for data from 2020, this new methodology moves the calculation point for all member states and all packaging materials to the entrance of the recycling operation. It means that no impurities can be included and only materials that are really recycled can be included in the measurement process.

The methodology and data sources used by APEAL to calculate the current recycling rate have been independently reviewed, audited and certified by energy and waste specialist consultancy Eunomia.