The latest figures from APEAL (the Association of European Producers of Steel for Packaging) show that 70% of steel packaging is recycled in Europe. This represents over 2.5 million tonnes of food and drinks cans and other steel containers being recycled in 2008, saving 3.9 million tonnes of CO2. According to the latest available data, this places recycling rates for steel above those of other packaging materials such as plastic, beverage cartons and glass (29% , 33% and 62% respectively).
Steel's outstanding performance owes much to its unique material properties. The fact that steel is magnetic makes it the easiest and most cost effective material to sort and recover. When household waste is recycled, these magnetic properties enable steel packaging to be easily separated from cartons, plastic, and other packaging materials. Unlike other materials, steel loses none of its strength or inherent qualities, no matter how many times it is recycled.
Made to be recycled
Another reason for steel's continued recycling success is that the recycling process is embedded into steel production. Put simply: to make steel, you have to use recycled steel. This means that every steel plant is a recycling plant, producing steel of virgin quality while saving valuable resources. Complementing this is a network of well-established routes for collection and recovery of steel cans across Europe which has helped to ensure recycling excellence.
Saving energy and carbon
By integrating recycled steel into the manufacturing process the industry achieves energy savings of 70% and lowers its output of CO2. In fact, each item of recycled steel packaging saves one and a half times its weight of CO2. So the more steel is recycled, the more CO2 emissions are reduced.
"Once again steel is setting the standard for recycling across Europe and demonstrating that by recycling we can make an important contribution to reducing CO2 emissions." said Guillaume de Formanoir, President of APEAL.
Improved recycling performance across the board
In 2008, the recycling rate for steel packaging continued to grow throughout Europe rising by 1.4% from the 2007 total. Belgium was once again Europe's recycling champion where 93% of steel packaging was recycled. Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands follow closely behind, recycling over 87% of their steel containers.