American consumers purchase over 500 million
beverage bottles and cans, on average, every
day. Only about one in three are recycled
while two out of three beverage containers
sold are landfilled, incinerated or littered.
Each year we are producing more beverages and
recycling a smaller portion of the containers.
According to the Container Recycling Institute
(CRI), beverage sales have increased over
five-fold in the last 30 years while U.S.
container recycling rates have declined from
53.5% in 1992 to 33.5% in 2004.
In 2003,1 containers and packaging, at 32%,
comprised the largest segment of U.S.
municipal solid waste2, and beverage
containers made up approximately 15% of all
packaging and nearly 5% by weight of total
waste (estimated from EPA data, 2005).
Beverage bottles and cans are not only a large
portion of packaging, but are also some of the
most easily recycled and most economically
valuable materials in our waste stream.
Replacing these cans and bottles with new
containers made from virgin materials consumes
substantive amounts of energy, water and other
natural resources, creates greenhouse gas
emissions fueling global warming and other
pollutants and increases dependence on foreign
In a study of energy and emissions profile of
the materials in the 1997 U.S. municipal
waste, Valiente (2000) estimated that aluminum
cans contributed 14% of emissions embodied in
a ton of divertible waste that was landfilled,
even though they comprised only 1.4% of the
entire waste stream by weight. Using recovered
materials in container manufacture, especially
post consumer materials, saves energy, water,
and natural resources, and reduces waste and
global warming pollution.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Energy Savings
Using calculations based on the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s)
WASTE Reduction Model (WARM), an estimated 3
million metric tons of carbon equivalent (MTCE)
of greenhouse gas emissions are being avoided
annually at the current (2004) rate of overall
beverage container recycling (about 33.5%).
If the current level of beverage container
sales were to remain constant (nearly 200
billion units sold per year) but the overall
recycling rate were to reach 80%, then
approximately an additional 3 million tons of
greenhouse gas emissions (double current
avoided emissions) would be avoided. These
additional avoided emissions are equivalent to
taking nearly 2.4 million cars off the road
for one year.
Published with permission from The Container
The Container Recycling Institute (CRI) is
a nonprofit organization that studies and
promotes policies and programs that increase
recovery and recycling of beverage containers,
and shift the social and environmental costs
associated with manufacturing, recycling, and
disposal of container and packaging waste from
government and taxpayers to producers and
consumers. CRI is located in Washington D.C.
1. Latest year for which EPA data has been
2. Household trash or garbage that is commonly
thrown away amounted to 236.2 million tons.
Recycling For Charities
Wellesley, MA 02481
saves 95 percent of the energy required to make
aluminum from ore.
the recycling rate were to reach 80% at the
current level of beverage container sales, nearly
3 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions would
be avoided. This is equivalent to taking nearly
2.4 million cars off the road for a full year.
U.S. Beverage Container Recycling Scorecard and
1972, 53 million pounds of aluminum were recycled.
Today, we exceed that amount weekly.