Aluminum cans are among the most widely accepted packages for recycling. Within the packaging industry, they have leading recycled content rates and are consistently among the most valuable materials by weight in the recycling stream. However, according to Can Manufacturers Institute research, up to 25% of aluminum beverage cans are missorted at a typical MRF. Capturing these cans provides critical economic and environmental benefits to the recycling system and ensures that used beverage cans are recycled into new cans, supporting a circular economy.
In 2020, The Partnership launched an Aluminum Beverage Can Capture MRF Grant Program to invest in eddy-current separators, robotic sorters, other equipment, and process improvement to capture more cans during the sortation process. The Partnership made five grants in 2021 to MRFs across the U.S. following detailed grant criteria. In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, we made a grant in November 2021 to the MRF serving Milwaukee and 26 communities in surrounding Waukesha County. Earlier in the year, we worked with Milwaukee to deploy more than 18,600 recycling carts and fund a citywide education and outreach effort to support the transition to universal, every-other-week collection. Through this powerful combination of MRF and collection investment, more than 10 million new pounds of recyclables, including cans, will be collected each year, and the Milwaukee area will be equipped to sort the increased volume of used beverage cans that will ultimately be made into new cans.
Overall, the equipment installed at MRFs from the five 2021 can capture grants will result in an additional 71 million aluminum cans recycled every year. According to the Can Manufacturers Institute’s impact calculator, that is an additional $1.15 million of revenue generated for the U.S. recycling system and energy savings that could power more than 28 million U.S. homes for one hour.
See more stories of how The Recycling Partnership is solving with materials recovery facilities in the 2022 Impact Report.