With South Africa already boasting a recovery rate of about 72% for used beverage cans, metals packaging industry body MetPac-SA believes that further potential lies in diverting other metal packaging such as aluminium foil, containers and empty tin cans from landfills.
“With regard to aluminium specifically, this can be recycled endlessly back into either the same or other aluminium products. During the recycling process, the aluminium scrap is treated to remove contaminants and is then melted using the relevant technology. The end result is a product that is infinitely recycled without any degradation in metal quality or loss of alloying elements such as magnesium, manganese, silicon, copper and chrome,” says MetPac-SA CEO Delanie Bezuidenhout.
She adds that the end product is then used to manufacture components inclusive of rolled foil, sheets or plates, and extruded profiles to manufacture ladders, tankers, beverage cans and foil packaging. Therefore, their life cycle is not the traditional “cradle-to-grave” sequence, but rather a renewable “cradle-to-cradle”.
Bezuidenhout points to the scrap metals industry as a key recycling collection channel for the metals sector. MetPac-SA is expecting the amount of aluminium recoveries from beverage cans alone to increase significantly over the next five years.
This underlines the importance of MetPac-SA partnering with important players in the industry and continuously growing this base, as its waste management partners such as WastePlan and The New Reclamation Group have indicated that they readily accept and recycle metal food cans and aluminium food packaging at their commercial sites. Further, these entities have sorters on site that are able to separate the different recyclable commodities.
As part of its initiative to spur recycling, this month, MetPac-SA collaborated with various packaging streams in South Africa to encourage households to practice mindful recycling. This formed part of the Clean-up and Recycle SA week, held from September 11 to 17.
Although the industry body can already boast a number of significant players in the industry as partners, from raw material suppliers, convertors and brand owners, it is aiming to grow this.
Included in MetPac-SA’s current list is multinational beverage and brewing company Anheuser-Busch InBev; Aerosol Manufacturers Association of South Africa; integrated steel company ArcelorMittal South Africa; beverage company Coca-Cola; spirits, fine wines, ciders and ready-to-drink producer and marketer Distell; brewing company Heineken; aluminium supplier and exporter Hulamin; diversified packaging manufacturer Nampak; food and beverage company Nestlé; diversified industrial packaging group PackSolve; and aluminium foil manufacturer Wyda Packaging.
Bezuidenhout emphasises the importance of having partner Hulamin also serve on MetPac-SA’s board of directors. As an end-user, Hulamin is well positioned to understand the importance of recycling in ensuring the sustainability of the metals packaging industry, and to the environment.
The past 75 years has seen Hulamin intimately involved in the recycling of its internally generated process scrap, as well as the fabrication scrap generated by customers. Moreover, the company has furthered this commitment significantly by investing R300-million two years ago in a recycling plant that processes and cleans used beverage cans, thereby enhancing the company’s capability in the recycling of aluminium scrap.
MetPac-SA is also working with the metals packaging industry to ensure that it supports the greater packaging industry’s vision of “Zero Waste to the Environment”. This vision includes cleaning up the environment, maximising diversion of metal packaging from landfills, increasing collection and recycling rates of metal packaging, ensuring that the manufacturing sector has access to a steady stream of good quality and clean recyclables, finding and developing new market for recyclate, and reducing raw material consumption by driving the increased use of recyclate.
Bezuidenhout indicates that sustainability in the metals packaging industry is driven by recycling saving up to 95% of the raw materials and energy required to make new products.
An element of risk to the sustainability of the metals packaging industry is therefore posed by illegal scrap exports, as this ultimately reduces the locally available scrap pool. To manage this, MetPac-SA will be closely monitoring and working with the relevant players in the scrap metals industry.
Bezuidenhout concludes by indicating that the export market is a major end-user of scrap metals, as South Africa’s ferrous scrap exports last year alone totalled 644 000 t to countries such as India, China and Pakistan.