Recycling your metals matters

South Africans used more than 198 000 tons of metal cans, foil trays and aerosols during 2016 alone. MetPac-SA, the material recovery organisation representing the steel, tinplate and aluminium packaging industries in South Africa, is reminding South Africans that recycling their metals matters to the thousands of schools, collectors and convertors who earn a living from recycling this material.

“Metal packaging is one of the world’s most valuable materials for collectors and recyclers. This packaging material continues to be in high demand and can readily be found in and around the home and includes cooldrink cans, food tins (including pet food), foil trays, empty aerosols canisters, metal bottle tops and foil wrap,” says Delanie Bezuidenhout, CEO of MetPac-SA.

According to the latest figures released by Packaging SA, South Africa has an impressive recovery rate for used beverage cans, which currently sits at around 73% (up from 70% in 2015) – one of the leaders in the world. For the past five years, metals packaging has consistently outperformed glass, paper and plastic by recording the highest recovery rate and diversion from landfill. Whilst South Africans have an already impressive track record when it comes to recycling their metal cans, MetPac-SA is now also appealing to people to think about the quality of their recycling as well as the quantity.

“The metals packaging industry has managed to develop a true circular economy whereby the material that is collected and recycled, is used to produce new products at a far lower cost to the environment than making them from raw materials. Every time metal passes through the recycling loop, the benefits are repeated, again and again and again!”

Recycling metal packaging helps save valuable and scarce natural resources, energy and greenhouse gas emissions. Twenty recycled cans can be made with the energy needed to produce one new can using primary aluminium ingot. Similarly, recycling one beverage can saves the amount of energy needed to burn a 100 watt bulb for four hours, or to run a TV for four hours.

“It is important to remember that both the quality and quantity of the materials that enter our waste stream impact the value. The cleaner the food or drink can that gets thrown into the recycling bag, the higher the value will be for the collectors and the recyclers. For this reason, we are reminding residents try to clean out their cans as much as possible before recycling them. Because South Africa is a water-scarce country, you should use your used dishwashing-up water and not clean tap water. Every can that is recycled ends up making a big difference in the end,” said Bezuidenhout.

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