Aluminum is replacing plastic as the greenest bottle

The drive to turn products more eco-friendly is sweeping through the U.S. beverage market, with plastic being replaced in everything from red Solo cups to Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo Inc. water bottles.

In place of the petrochemical material, aluminum is emerging as a more sustainable option to cater to environmentally conscious consumers. That shift is threatening to dislodge the entrenched position of plastics in the American drinks industry, while helping boost shares of companies such as Ball Corp., the biggest aluminum can producer in the world.

Most of the plastic the world has made so far has been discarded as waste, causing environmental and social damage of $2.2 trillion a year as it pollutes the globe’s oceans, according to research from Frontiers in Marine Science. The Aluminum Association estimates that almost 50% of the cans made of the lightweight metal in the U.S. are recycled, compared with about 29% for plastic bottles.

Companies are responding. Firms including Nestle SA and Unilever have announced plans such as changing wrapping material and making packaging recyclable or resuable. Coca-Cola said in August that it’s putting its Dasani water brand into aluminum cans, which followed rival PepsiCo’s announcement that it would experiment selling its own water brand, Aquafina, in cans at restaurants and stadiums.

“This growth has happened so quickly that we’re just trying to keep up with demand,” Ball Chief Executive Office John Hayes said in a telephone interview. “This has all been driven by the consumer.”

The Broomfield, Colorado-based company’s stock is up about 56% over the past 12 months, making it one of the top 10 performers on the S&P 500 index of equities. It was little changed Wednesday at $72.12. In a bid to boost the appeal of aluminum containers, the company went after the plastic red Solo cups — ubiquitous at football tailgates across U.S. college campuses — with a metal competitor.

Demand in the U.S. for can sheet — the type of aluminum used for beverage cans — will grow about 3% to 5% a year through at least 2025 as metal cans gain further market share against plastic, according to research firm Harbor Intelligence. By contrast, growth was effectively flat for the last 20 years, with all but one mill in the country shutting operations.

“The brand owners are now getting on board — you’ve seen it with Aquafina and Dasani and a whole litany of others,” said Hayes. “But now NGOs and policy makers are also saying, ‘Wait a minute here, we are polluting our planet, and our constituents want it stopped.’”

Previously, U.S. producers typically focused their efforts on the auto industry, letting imports fill the needs of can manufacturers. Alcoa Corp., the largest American maker of the metal, was one of the firms that was ramping up its automotive sheet production as part of a supply-agreement with Ford Motor Co. Now, it’s also bullish about can sheet’s future.

“We’ve started to see that the North American can shipments are showing signs of growth,” Tim Reyes, Alcoa’s executive vice president of aluminum who is soon to become the Pittsburgh-based producer’s chief commercial officer, said in an interview. “There’s a lot of advantages toward using aluminum for sure, and I think that’s the trend that we’re seeing now versus the disadvantage of a single-use plastic beverage container.”

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Coca-Cola follows suit and announces shift from plastic to aluminum, reinforcing the Aluminum Can Revolution 2.0

Coca-Cola announces moving its Dasani water to aluminum packaging. In a news release today, Coca-Cola announced putting its Dasani brand of water into aluminum packaging as part of a pipeline of sustainable packaging innovations. The new aluminum cans will launch locally in the Northeastern part of the US next month and expand to other regions in 2020. The new aluminum bottle will become available in mid-2020.

HARBOR coined the term “Aluminum Can Revolution 2.0” based on the forecast of growing demand for aluminum cans and aluminum cansheet in the wake of the environmental challenges of plastic waste. Decades ago, during the late 1970’s to the mid 1990’s, aluminum cansheet demand growth was robust from material substitution from steel to aluminum; what HARBOR has called the “Aluminum Can Revolution 1.0”. During the late 1990’s to as recent as a year ago, there was essentially no structural growth in aluminum cansheet demand. Now, boosted by material substitution from plastic to aluminum, the industry is entering a period of growth; the “Aluminun Can Revolution 2.0”.

PepsiCo announced a similar shift from plastic to aluminum in late June. PepsiCoannounced that it would no longer package bubly (sparkling water beverage) in plastic and will begin offering its branded water, AQUAFINA, in aluminum cans to US food service outlets (sporting events, restaurants) with plans to test the move to aluminum in the retail market. These changes will go into effect in 2020.

Additionally, both Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have stepped away from a plastics lobbying group. Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have stopped participation with the Plastics Industry Association, whereby they believe participation in such an association could taint their images as companies working to find solutions to plastics pollution.

US domestic rolling mills with capability to produce aluminum cansheet are poised to gain as they are able to switch product mix, utilize scrap at historically low prices, and meet the increased demand.

Copyright: This report and its content is confidential, proprietary, in some cases trademarked and/or copyrighted, and constitute trade secret(s) material of HARBOR Aluminum Intelligence Unit, LLC, there use is for authorized subscribers only. No portion of this report may be photocopied, reproduced, retransmitted, distributed or otherwise redistributed electronically, in print or verbally without prior written authorization from HARBOR Aluminum Intelligence Unit, LLC.

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‘Not a dustbin’: Cambodia to send plastic waste back to the US and Canada

Cambodia has announced it will send 1,600 tonnes of plastic waste found in shipping containers back to the US and Canada, as south-east Asian countries revolt against an onslaught of rubbish shipments.

China’s decision to ban foreign plastic waste imports last year threw global recycling into chaos, leaving developed nations struggling to find countries to send their trash.

Eighty-three shipping containers full of rubbish were found on Tuesday at Sihanoukville, Cambodia’s main port, according to a spokesman for the country’s environment minister.

“Cambodia is not a dustbin where foreign countries can dispose of out-of-date e-waste, and the government also opposes any import of plastic waste and lubricants to be recycled in this country,” he said.

Neth Pheaktra said 70 of the containers were shipped from the US and 13 came from Canada. Both countries are major exporters of such waste.

A government committee established to look into the matter will investigate how and why the containers ended up in Cambodia, he said. He added that any company found to be involved in bringing in the waste would be fined and brought to court.

Images of officials inspecting the containers, stuffed with bundled plastic, riled up Cambodian social media users.

The trash delivery was a “serious insult”, Transparency International Cambodia’s executive director, Preap Kol, said in a Facebook post.

Tuesday’s discovery followed a statement at a cabinet meeting last week by the prime minister, Hun Sen, that Cambodia is not the dumping ground for any kind of waste, and does not allow the import of any kinds of plastic waste or other recyclables.

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Impressive growth awaits recycled metals market

‘However, unorganised flow of metals and poor scrap collection zones are anticipated to restrict the global market size in the coming years,’ analysts at Global Market Insights say. They point out that one notable issue is that most developing countries have no dedicated zones for metal recycling.

India’s automotive industry is expected to be worth more than US$ 280 billion by 2025. The country’s car production went up by 7% from 2013 to 2018 with nearly 30 million vehicles manufactured. A quarter of steel used in today’s automobiles today has been recycled and, based on its weight, a passenger car comprises approximately 65% steel and iron.

Ferrous outlook

The research found that the recycled ferrous metal market was valued at more than US$ 850 million last year. The analysts note that the overall recycling rate for steel used in construction is 98% for structural and 71% for rebar & reinforcement applications.

‘In terms of volume, recycled metal for industrial machinery constituted over 15% of the total industry share in 2018,’ the new data suggests. This is mainly due to extensive recycled metal applications in the production of machinery used across the pharmaceutical, chemical and automotive industry.

Furthermore, non-ferrous metals like copper, aluminium, lead and brass are increasingly popular in such machinery. Their excellent durability and corrosion-free nature will help make a positive impact on the overall recycled steel metal market size by 2025.

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Three Out Of Four Aluminium Cans Recycled In The U.K. In 2018

According to Alupro, the UK’s 75-percent recycling rate is a significant improvement from the beginning of the decade, with overall aluminium beverage can recycling totaling 54 percent in 2010.

Food and beverage processors increasingly turn to aluminium as a packaging medium per Alupro, with the industry witnessing an 11-percent rise to 52 percent last year. As a result of both increased aluminium usage and increased recycling, the British Isles recycled over 100 metric tons of aluminium that began as food and beverage packaging last year alone.

Executive director of Alupro Rick Hindley noted the high sustainability of aluminium and the British public’s enthusiasm for ensuring that the metal continues to be utilized into the future.

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Where does your plastic go? Global investigation reveals America’s dirty secret

This is not the experience of Nguyễn Thị Hồng Thắm, a 60-year-old Vietnamese mother of seven, living amid piles of grimy American plastic on the outskirts of Hanoi. Outside her home, the sun beats down on a Cheetos bag; aisle markers from a Walmart store; and a plastic bag from ShopRite, a chain of supermarkets in New Jersey, bearing a message urging people to recycle it.

Tham is paid the equivalent of $6.50 a day to strip off the non-recyclable elements and sort what remains: translucent plastic in one pile, opaque in another.

A Guardian investigation has found that hundreds of thousands of tons of US plastic are being shipped every year to poorly regulated developing countries around the globe for the dirty, labor-intensive process of recycling. The consequences for public health and the environment are grim.

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