Brazil’s 2011 aluminum can recycling rate was an unprecedented and ‘historic’ 98.3%, again allowing them to retain the title of Aluminum Can Recycling Champion. Since 2001, Brazil has been ranked as the number one country with the highest aluminum can recycling rate, cementing the country as the global leader and forerunner in this domain.
According to trade associations the Brazilian Aluminium Association and the Brazilian Association of Aluminium Cans of High Recyclability, Brazil has recycled 248,700 tons of Used Beverage Cans (UBC) out of the accounted 253,100 tons on the market. Brazil’s recycling industry countered their nation’s anticipated consumption rate — which is expected to raise by 7% in 2012 — by increasing its UBC recycling rate by 9.5% this year, recycling 23 billion units from 21 billion the previous year. Data provided by both trade associations confirms that last year, 18.4 million packages were recycled, which means 50.4 million per day or 2.1 million per hour.
Brazil’s success certainly has economic and environmental advantages. The accumulation of UBC has added R$645 to the domestic economy. Because the recycling process uses far less electric power than the primary metal process, recycling 248.7 tons of UBC has also saved an exorbitant amount of electric power. Additionally, the collection stage alone adds thousands of jobs to Brazil’s economy.
In Brazil in 2009, in around 30 days, an aluminum beverage can could be purchased at a market, used, collected, recycled and returned to the market shelves for additional consumption. Brazil’s success is the result of combined efforts from everyone: aluminum sheet manufacturers, can manufacturers, fillers, cooperatives, recycling companies, consumers and the Brazilian government.
Not only do all the major players proactively take part in Brazil’s recycling chain, but the government funds informative campaigns on recycling, which have helped to educate the consumer. However, the most important factor is that the country has an existing recycling market in all of its regions. This, coupled with easy collection; transportation and marketing; and highly valued and highly available aluminum scrap has altered consumer behavior. And consumer behavior is a very important ingredient to a high recycling rate.
Just imagine how the US’s recycling industry can learn from Brazil’s methods, and ultimately benefit. Not only would our economy greatly improve — we would be able to add jobs — but our carbon footprint would diminish. The US federal government needs to take a proactive approach in dealing with the US’s recycling issues by heeding Brazil’s advice. If consumer behavior is modified, then we will see a huge difference in US recycling practices.
A recent presentation by Dr. Subodh Das – followed by its subsequent publication in the August 2011 issue of Journal of Metals — “Aluminum Recycling in a Carbon Constrained World: Observations and Opportunities” presents a framework for achieving substantial progress in US aluminum recycling rates, and a framework for integrating key elements into the US aluminum recycling landscape: (1) engineering, (2) communication, (3) public policy and (4) actionable sustainability strategies.
Although the US has made great strides in recent years towards increasing its current high recycling rate of 65.1% in 2011 from rates lower that 50% in 2003, much work still remains to be done to catch up with Brazil’s 98.3%.
Conceived, Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan
December 17th, 2012
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