THE CONCEPT OF RECYCLING IS EVOLVING
by Gordon Shade, CEO, European Metal Packaging (Empac)
It is time for a more defined approach.
Having come from an agenda driven mostly by the reduction of waste and waste going to landfill, global efforts are now looking at how the constituent resources can be preserved and used to maximum effect; ie, responsible resource management.
Resource efficiency has become increasingly topical, from Japanese and Chinese efforts on ‘circular economy’ to the European Commission discussing road maps and strategy documents on raw materials, resource efficiency, and beyond.
Metal packaging has an inherent advantage here. The elemental nature of the material means that it never really reaches the end of its life. Rather, it’s the application, the product, which is discarded and thus considered to be at the end of its life.
The material, though, can be recovered and recycled an infinite number of times. Nor is metal packaging restricted to always being used for the same application; it can come back as part of any number of other metal products again and again.
Most importantly, recycling metal saves a significant amount of energy and resources every time (up to 95 per cent energy savings due to recycling of aluminium, and up to 75 per cent energy savings due to steel recycling). In fact, the recycling process is embedded into metal production – meaning that every metal plant is also a recycling plant.
Recycling is still often conceptually reduced to a one-step process without regard for subsequent steps. With metal packaging, this isn’t the case. Metal can be recycled into the same or something else of equal quality and equal value ad infinitum, making it a permanent material with many varied applications.
In Europe in 2009, 72 per cent of steel packaging was recycled; and this is set to rise further, enabling our industry to continue improving its resource efficiency.
LENGTHY SUCCESS RECORD
Metal packaging has a long history of being safe, efficient, and providing excellent value for consumers. Constant innovation in shaping, printing, material reduction, and closures ensures that this remains the case in today’s competitive and convenience-driven market.
The food can, for example, has been revolutionised through lightweighting and the inclusion of easy-opening systems, increasing consumer benefit and supply-chain performance.
At European Metal Packaging (Empac), we’re very happy to see that the discussions on packaging between policymakers, civil society, and industry are taking on a more nuanced approach. Packaging is no longer always seen automatically as waste but rather as an important part of a balanced, responsible, and efficient economy.
Metal packaging fulfils an indispensable role in conveying the product to consumers in a state that’s fit for purpose through a sometimes-complex supply chain in the most efficient manner possible.
MANY PEOPLE INVOLVED
We at Empac bring together more than 200 companies involved in the manufacture and supply of rigid metal packaging, plus their national associations, to promote the benefits of this product.
We support over 70,000 employees in 23 European countries, using five million tonnes of metal to produce annually in excess of 70 billion units in steel and aluminium – which reach consumers every day of the year.
Our aim is to ensure that the metal packaging industry speaks consistently with one voice, and that metal packaging is recognised as a valuable contributor to sustainability throughout the supply chain.
PARTICIPATION AT INTERPACK
As part of our industry representation, Empac hosted the Metal Packaging Forum, at the heart of the Metal Packaging Plaza, during last year’s interpack exhibition in Germany. The Empac stand reflected the infinity loop of steel and aluminium.
There, visitors were able to browse information on performance achievements of the industry, the benefits of metal packaging, the newest recycling rates, and the latest innovations.
Apart from having a variety of industry-relevant external and internal speakers throughout the event, detailing different facets of metal packaging in the wider world, we also had Ace the magician and a chef.
Whilst the former added a touch of mystery with magnetic levitation, the chef provided freshly-prepared food and drinks from metal cans – which proved a smash hit with all participants!