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Campaigns keep metal packaging in the loop

Metal packaging represents the most valuable material in the household waste stream. Its endless recyclability makes it a valuable resource for industry, and the recycling process itself delivers significant environmental and economic benefits. Every time metal is recycled it cuts the carbon footprint of the next product made, so the benefits keep adding up.

Increasing kerbside capture rates for metal packaging adds significant value to local authority recycling programmes. As the budgets of both waste management companies and local authorities come under closer scrutiny, the value that can be added through increasing metal packaging volumes has become more important than ever. Increasing capture rates also ensures that valuable metal packaging remains in the ‘infinite loop’, delivering long-term carbon savings.

Voluntary industry funding

In fact, for more than 20 years, producers, converters and reprocessors of metal packaging have voluntarily funded programmes designed to do exactly that. Programmes such as Aerofoil and Every Can Counts have already demonstrated how the different packaging sectors can work together effectively, to move more quickly towards the common goal of maximising recycling performance.

Both have seen significant milestones achieved: now in its fourth year, Every Can Counts has become well established and is recognised as a brand in its own right, delivering a detailed insight into the barriers as well as drivers, for recycling ‘away from the home’.

By the end of the two year Aerofoil programme, 98 local authorities had changed their kerbside collection system to include either foil or aerosols or both, and more than 5.8 million households were benefiting from expanded collection services.

The success of the Aerofoil programme hinged on communicating with local authorities and waste management companies, illustrating that foil and aerosols are not difficult to recycle and providing practical, technical and communications support to implement changing collection services effectively.

Now, this successful model has been adopted for the latest and largest recycling programme undertaken in the UK: MetalMatters. It has been developed and funded by the metal packaging manufacturing industry, reprocessors and fillers and works in partnership with local authorities and their waste collection partners. Its aim is to promote metal packaging recycling and improve capture rates for metal packaging at the kerbside.

The MetalMatters programme is supported by Wrap and managed on behalf of the funding partners by the Aluminium Packaging Recycling Organisation (Alupro).

The original pilot scheme in Nuneaton and Bedworth District Council boosted the amount of metals collected at the kerbside for recycling by 12.9% and also boosted overall dry recyclables collected in some areas. It also increased the number of householders by 40% who knew bulky metals could be recycled. The scheme involved improving awareness of metal recycling and included producing two metal recycling leaflets, local newspaper advertising, billboard posters, and road shows.

Delivering lasting change

Industry research undertaken as part of previous recycling programmes has highlighted the need for regular communication from local authorities to remind residents and reinforce awareness of their local recycling services. This detailed research into householder’s understanding of recycling and their recycling behaviour underpins the new programme, which will deliver a significant and lasting impact on metal recycling participation and capture rates.

Developed and funded by the metal packaging manufacturing industry, reprocessors and fillers, MetalMatters works in partnership with local authorities and their waste collection partners.

By providing local authorities and waste partnerships with the tools and support required to deliver clear and consistent communication to householders encouraging them to recycle more metals, more often, MetalMatters has already proved its success during trials with East Hampshire District Council where capture rates for metals increased by up to 40% in some collection rounds.

Most ambitious industry programme

Launched in Northern Ireland on 6 February, MetalMatters is the most ambitious programme ever attempted through an industry partnership. Focused on the east of Northern Ireland and covering around half of Northern Ireland’s population – 440,000 households – the campaign aims to help the 11 members of the local authority waste partnership, arc21, and their waste management partner, Bryson Recycling, increase the amount of metal packaging collected from the kerbside.

MetalMatters will help councils deliver consistent communication designed to increase awareness of existing recycling services.  The campaign message focuses on the ‘transformation’ that metal can undergo when recycled, from everyday items like food cans and foil trays, to high value items. It uses a combination of direct mail, local radio and outdoor advertising. In addition, individual local authorities are being encouraged to adapt a range of free template materials, including press releases, web banners and graphics to support the campaign at a local level.  Arc21’s Education Bus is being refitted with metals-specific materials to deliver the message to schools and at local events throughout the 11 authorities.

During the course of 2012, MetalMatters will be rolled out across other areas throughout the UK. But while the programme will raise public awareness of the importance of recycling metal packaging - and increase the use of existing recycling services - increasing the amount of metal packaging that households recycle is ultimately dependent upon local authorities prioritising the collection of this valuable material.

Government support

No significant drivers have yet been proposed by Government, despite its stated commitment within the Review of Waste Policy to prioritise the recycling of materials that bring the biggest environmental benefits such as aluminium and other metal packaging.

The metal packaging industries’ investment has secured significant improvements in the UK’s metal recycling performance in recent years. Momentum has been building steadily and our collection infrastructure has developed along with material handling, sorting and extraction processing technologies.

Indeed it is industry-led programmes such as MetalMatters that continue to play the most significant role in helping local authorities maximise both economic and environmental recycling benefits. Focused communications and awareness programmes such as MetalMatters will continue to play a pivotal role in the future but with greater support from Government, even better recycling rates could be achieved.

MetalMatters funding partners

  • Aluminium Packaging Recycling Organisation (Alupro)
  • Beverage Can Makers Europe (BCME)
  • British Aerosol Manufacturers Association (BAMA)
  • Metal Packaging Manufacturers Association (MPMA)
  • Metal Reprocessors
  • Novelis UK
  • Tata Steel
  • Foil container manufacturers
  • Coppice Alupack
  • Nicholl Food Packaging
  • i2r Packaging Solutions
  • Drinks can fillers
  • Coca Cola Enterprises

Rick Hindley is Alupro’s executive director


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