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Sunday, May 19, 2024

The impact of aluminium

Marcel Arsand discusses the growing demand for beverage cans

Marcel Arsand


The Can Makers

We are at a critical point. The world of packaging has been under scrutiny and Governments, campaign groups and consumers are demanding action to reduce human impact on the environment, particularly through reducing single-use plastic.
This eco-awareness coupled with changes in consumer attitudes, lifestyle choices and the booming craft beer trend means cans have enjoyed steady growth over recent years.
Nielsen data shows that sales of cans in the beer and cider market jumped by 6 percent in 2018. Single beer cans saw a 9 percent rise and single cider cans achieved an even more impressive 22 percent increase. On the other hand, cider in PET bottles declined

by 9 percent. The craft beer in cans market grew by a staggering 59 percent (YTD Jan 2019) whilst glass bottles of craft beer declined by 5 percent. Craft drinks makers and consumers alike continue to see the benefit of canned beers over other pack formats, whilst consumers are opting for smaller portion sizes that fit their lifestyle choices and come in a wider variety of flavours. We have seen a change in how customers choose to consume their alcoholic drinks, particularly as younger generations become more health conscious and control their alcohol intake. The popularity of craft single cans suggests quality, not quantity. Cans are perfect for individual servings. It’s all about giving customers choice. They also enjoy the bold, vibrant 360-degree designs of craft beer cans and the fact they’re easy to chill and carry. Cans also protect the drink inside from light, so those great tasting beers aren’t affected.

The sustainable story
The aluminium drinks can is a great example of a highly sustainable pack widely available in the market right now. We frequently hear confusion around some packaging types that claim to be “recyclable” or “collected for recycling” rather than really recycled.
Let’s set the record straight: aluminium cans are made from a valuable permanent material and can be infinitely recycled because they don’t lose any of the material’s inherent quality – there’s no ‘downcycling’. We are moving towards a truly circular model and aluminium cans are very well suited for it.
We already have the infrastructure and capacity to manage the recycling of cans in the UK as part of a European network. The metal industry has worked hard to invest in behind-the-scenes processes and collection schemes, resulting in year on year growth in recycling rates. The current UK recycling rate is 72 percent, 74 percent in Europe.

We are moving towards a truly circular model and aluminium cans are very well suited for it

However, despite the incredible success story of canned craft beer and a strong list of sustainability credentials, cans could suffer from the type of Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) that the Government chooses to introduce. If schemes like the proposed 20p flat fee from Scotland occur, we could see unintended consequences like people switching from cans to plastic bottles. According to research by ICARO, a quarter of beverage can consumers suggested they would switch from a portion size can to large PET if a 10p flat deposit was introduced. This is because the upfront price of a multipack of cans is significantly more than a two litre bottle of cola drink.

Sustainability is a complex topic, with many stakeholders involved – all of whom must work together to develop the best solutions to our single-use plastic challenge and use of packaging in general. A DRS has to cover a wide range of materials, formats and sizes and the deposit should reflect the value and size of the material, like in most Scandinavian countries. We should promote recyclability by design with clear guidelines and modulated fees. The drinks can is a solution that’s already there on shelves. It’s a great example of sustainability by design and a circular economy.

Visit the Sustainability Hub to find out more: www.canmakers.co.uk/sustainabilityhub

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