It feels somehow beholden of me to open with a positive sentiment toward 2021, and the opportunities ahead!
As we closed 2020 on a European level, Novelis was pleased to celebrate the continuing upward trend on aluminium beverage can recycling, attaining 76.1% for the year 2018. I am sure you are all aware of the increasing challenges that arise as you continue to strive upwards from such already high levels. However, ambitions are not dimmed and we will reach well beyond the low hanging fruit. At that European level, we continue to collaborate with our industry partners and downstream customers – to map the path towards full circularity, or 100% recycling. On the way, that elusive ‘unrecycled’ 20% or so still lurks in the familiar places, places that perhaps trouble other materials too, albeit to a greater degree.
Here I am particularly thinking of quality losses and on the go consumption. The challenges of quality-based material collection and sorting remain a real issue today, and it is interesting to note The Recycling Association launch of its Quality First Roadmap, some seven years after the ReQIP (Recycling Quality Information Point) initiative from the Resource Association, itself developing on activity by the Campaign for Real Recycling in the first decade of this century. All these initiatives in their own way have identified the self-evident observation that degrees of separation create the conditions for maintaining quality materials. And the contrary position. It is pleasing therefore, to note WRAP’s acknowledgement that it “has never been more opportune to redesign recycling schemes that are fit for a circular future”. With all that awaits us this year Extended Producer Responsibility, Deposit Return Schemes, Collections Consistency, Plastic Packaging tax and more – let’s hope WRAP’s wishes can come true.
When it comes to on the go recycling, I cannot be alone in thinking that due to the homebound nature of existence in 2020, our recycling rates must surely be increased; in part due to increased homebound consumption, but at the same time due to decreased ‘on the go’ consumption? On the go materials have been traditionally less recycled by the consumer and infrastructure does not yet match that afforded to every household in the UK. Therefore, it seems to me that last year presented an opportunity out of adversity for us to build on. Whilst our programmes like Every Can Counts have had to be adapted to counter for the lack of public events, the engagement and reinforcement we can now make on-line and through social media with consumers should stand us in good stead as we emerge hopefully post-Covid. They say that “Stars can’t shine without darkness” but let’s hope that our currently homebound recycling stars, really shine and ‘do infinite good’ when they transition back into their previous ‘on the go’ lifestyles.