New report by Green Alliance shows that nearly half of aluminium packaging is not recycled

aluminium can recycling

According to a new report by Green Alliance, nearly half of aluminium packaging is not being recycled, however it believes that reforms could ensure that nearly all waste aluminium packaging is recovered.   

Green Alliance has said that it should do more to recover aluminium as part of its reforms to the packaging recycling system. This could reduce the quantity of aluminium waste from 49% to 3%, said the thinktank. 


In 2017, the UK recycled 51% of aluminium packaging, including 72% of aluminium drink cans, and while the second figure looks like a success, it still means that the UK is wasting more than £50 million worth of used aluminium packaging annually, including £30 million worth of drink cans alone. 

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The Government is currently consulting on reforms to the packaging recycling system.  

New research published by Green Alliance has outlined how these reforms could see almost all aluminium packaging recycled including drink cans, aerosols, food tins, trays and foil. 

Green Alliance has said that the most significant finding is to maintain quality and value, meaning that aluminium must be extracted from the waste management process as early as possible. 

According to the research, the two most important actions the Government should take are: 

  • Introducing an ‘all-in’ deposit return scheme (DRS) as this system in Europe has shown that it is possible to recycle nearly all drink containers on the market. Principles for a UK system that achieves these levels of recycling include ensuring containers of all sizes are collected to reduce the amount of aluminium lost to landfill 
  • Improving kerbside collection – Once drink cans are collected via DRS, the remaining third of aluminium packaging should be separately collected at kerbside. The Government should standardise the haphazard system and ensure these sources of aluminium are collected from homes and recycled.  

Green Alliance senior policy advisor on resources Libby Peake said: “The opportunity to review the whole recycling system does not come around often. We have a chance now to design a system that works for business, consumers and the environment. Getting it right for all materials – and not just plastic – will mean we can stop losing millions of pounds worth of materials to landfill or incineration.”  

Campaign to Protect Rural England litter programme director Samantha Harding said: “As the crazy days of burying or burning our finite resources come to an end, we can finally design proper collection systems that deliver high quantities of high-quality resources. That’s why the only logical approach to a UK-wide deposit system is to include every bottle, can and carton.  

“An ‘all-in’ system, universal in what it accepts, will be the most economically viable, the simplest for consumers to use, help create new jobs in a thriving recycling sector, and relieve struggling local councils of the huge financial burden of waste management by making those who produce these vast amounts of packaging rightfully liable for the costs of dealing with it.” 

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