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Yes we can! – Can makers go green

This week the EU celebrates Green Week, an initiative aimed at encouraging citizen and industry engagement with the priorities set out in the EU's Green Deal. To mark the occasion, MPE reflects on some of the many ways in which the metal packaging industry is supporting the EU’s efforts to go green. 

The EU Green Deal comprises a number of different initiatives, all aimed at increasing resource efficiency and reducing pollution. These new initiatives will clearly have an impact on the can manufacturing sector. Yet, with many can makers in Europe having already made commitments to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and work towards achieving climate neutrality, the industry is undoubtedly moving rapidly in the right direction.

Many can manufacturers are already heavily reliant on renewable energy to power their operations and several have publicly committed to ensuring that their operations are fully reliant on renewable energy sources by 2050. All of Ball Corporation’s EMEA beverage can plants, for example, already operate 100% on renewable energy, while Trivium Packaging has achieved the same feat at all of their manufacturing plants across Spain and the UK. Solar panels installed on the roof of one manufacturing plant in the Netherlands have helped reduce annual CO2 emissions by more than 300 tonnes, demonstrating the significant contribution that the switch to renewable energy is making to reducing the industry’s carbon footprint. 

It is not just in the area of renewable energy that can makers are taking steps to reduce energy use and lower emissions, either. Innovative initiatives aimed at increasing resource efficiency are now commonplace across the industry. Heat generated during the can making process, for example, is being used by Envases and Blechwarenfabrik to provide heat for manufacturing plants and local communities, while initiatives aimed at optimising energy use in manufacturing plants have contributed to significant and continued reductions in CO2 emissions.

Another area in which can manufacturers continue to make progress is lightweighting. CO2 emissions from the production of aluminium drink cans decreased by an average of 31% between 2006-2016, largely thanks to reductions in the amount of material required to make cans. Since then, efforts have been made to reduce the weight of cans even further, with the wall of an aluminium beverage can now as thin as a human hair.

Working with an infinitely recyclable permanent material, with some of the highest packaging recycling rates in Europe, also puts the industry at an advantage when it comes to increasing resource efficiency.

While the latest European figures put recycling rates at an impressive 76.1% for aluminium beverage cans and 82.5% for steel packaging, the industry is committed to doing even better. Recycling aluminium and steel saves 95% and 70% respectively of the energy required for primary production, so getting as close as possible to 100% recycling rates is a priority for the industry. With this specific goal in mind, Metal Packaging Europe recently launched a Roadmap in collaboration with European Aluminium, aimed at mobilising the entire aluminium beverage can value chain to move towards a 100% recycling rate by 2030. By maximising the circular potential of the aluminium beverage can, the industry aims to make a significant contribution towards achieving a truly circular and resource-efficient EU economy.

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