- The rate at which the U.S. recycled aluminum cans in 2012 hit a 20-year high, reflecting metal companies' stepped-up efforts in recent years to procure and process scrap.
- The U.S. recycled 62 billion cans, equivalent to 67% of the 92 billion cans produced that year, according to a report released Thursday by a consortium of industry groups.
- The U.S. rate, while rising, still trails that of countries like Brazil and parts of western Europe.
- How used aluminum cans go from households' recycling bins to shiny new six-packs on supermarket shelves involves a complex supply chain. Waste-management companies collect recyclable material from consumers. Big aluminum companies, such as Alcoa Inc., buy the scrap, melt it and roll it into sheets. Different firms transform those sheets into cans.
- The aluminum makers are at the nexus of the process. Using recycled aluminum allows companies to avoid the energy-intensive process of getting the metal out of the ore. Prices of natural gas, fuel oil and electricity generally are higher than they were a decade ago.
- The U.S. recycling rate peaked at 67.9% in 1992, according to the consortium, which includes the Aluminum Association, the Can Manufacturers Institute and the Institute for Scrap Recycling Industries. Industry surveys on aluminum have been conducted since 1972.
- The rate has ticked higher for six consecutive years, largely driven by rising imports of used beverage cans. Imports last year totaled 13 billion cans, up from 6.5 billion in 2007, when the recycling rate stood at 53.5%.
- Increased rates of aluminum-can recycling in the U.S. add to the supplies of aluminum available globally. More recycling exerts downward pressure on raw aluminum prices, which in recent years have been weighed down by a sharp increase in production capacity, analysts say.
- Alcoa, the largest U.S. aluminum maker, last month said it would combine two divisions--one charged with collecting used beverage cans and the other responsible for industrial scrap–to bolster its presence in the recycled-aluminum market. The Pittsburgh company previously announced a program with Boeing Co. to increase the recycling of the aluminum aerospace alloys the plane maker buys from Alcoa.