Circular by design…a blog piece by Andy Doran, Senior Manager, Sustainability and Recycling Development, Novelis
To say there’s a lot going on in the world right now is something of an understatement and becoming resilient to the concepts of change is a new life skill that we all need. Whilst geopolitics and geoeconomics might be the issues that attract the headlines, their consequences are things that exercise us every day both personally and professionally. Having moved rapidly from a global pandemic (that might not yet be finished) straight into a major European conflict, it seems any lessons learned from the former are not ready for implementation to deal with the latter.
Of course, in the world of resources and recycling we are intimately connected to all these issues whether through spiralling industrial energy costs or disrupted global supply chains and change has been the very nature of an industry that has been growing up before our eyes in the last thirty years. At times like these it is perhaps tempting to look for comfort to the past rather than the uncertainty of the future, but whilst there is a lot of solace in the achievements our industry has made, future challenges await us.
For Novelis and our can recycling business a recent report commissioned by the International Aluminium Institute revealed some great insight into the true circularity of packaging materials. Data analysis conducted by Eunomia Consulting showed that compared with aluminium cans, more glass and plastic bottles end up in residual waste because they are either not collected, or that the losses in the recycling system once collected, is three times higher for PET and glass bottles than for the aluminium cans.
As a global aluminium can sheet supplier and a used aluminium can recycler, recognition of the true circularity of our material is of course very welcome. But like all such analyses it’s based on the past, so what of the future. True circularity is a partnership between all stakeholders: to increase the recycling rate, you need to increase the collection, sorting and recycling capacity; to stimulate investments in collection, sorting and recycling capacity, you need to encourage high recycled content products. It’s a loop, with one aspect helping the next, and so on, so that together we can strive towards a 100% recycling rate. And that’s where we’re headed. In particular through Deposit Return Schemes (DRS) and Extended Producer Responsibility Schemes (EPR).
In conjunction with the recent announcements from DEFRA our industry body ALUPRO launched our own seven-point Manifesto for Delivering a World-class Recycling System in the UK. Seven point or not, for me it’s about improvement in three areas: Communication, Collection and Coverage. Communication: which Alupro does really well through Every Can Counts and MetalMatters, where we need strong partners in local government, waste management companies, fillers and brands. Not any old Collection, but high-quality collection to support closed-loop, product-to-product reprocessing. For us that means a well-run DRS with variable deposit fees, no cross-subsidy between materials and high-environmental outcomes. And finally recycling coverage; whilst Novelis is mainly focused on aluminium cans, a world class recycling system needs to cater for all aluminium packaging, so through forthcoming EPR we need a well-designed, segregated kerbside or co-collection (plastic and steel only) to minimise contamination, as well as better on-the-go capture. So that looks like more change is on the way then!
Andy Doran, Senior Manager, Sustainability and Recycling Development, Novelis