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US UBC recycling rate hits 8-year low

Jun 19, 2017 | 02:40 PM | Brad MacAulay

Tags  nonferrous scrap, used beverage cans, UBCs, Constellium NV, recycling rates, Element 13, Brad MacAulay

PITTSBURGH — Constellium NV is forging ahead with its plan increase the used beverage can (UBC) recycling rate in the United States despite a steep national decline in 2016.

The U.S. UBC recycling rate slipped for a second consecutive year, landing at 49.4 percent last year, according to Aluminum Association data cited in the company’s 2016 business and sustainability performance report.. That's down from  54.5 percent in 2015 and marks the lowest level since 2008, when the UBC recycling rate was 48.2 percent.

The Amsterdam-based company attributed the decline to systemic issues with recycling efforts and legislation across the U.S.

“UBC recycling in the U.S. is dependent on many factors, including a combination of individual behavior, as well as the creation of a comprehensive system to collect and sort the material on a community, town and state level,” a company spokeswoman told AMM.

"Although some areas provide efficient collection and sorting services, others provide none,” the company said in its report.

Despite back-to-back declines in the U.S. recycling rate, the spokeswoman said Constellium is committed to working with the industry and other stakeholders to address the issue and reanalyze an approach to intensify recycling efforts.

“Our current approach to encouraging recycling may need to be updated, but this needs to be an industry effort,” the spokeswoman said, noting that the company is working with the Arlington, Va.-based Aluminum Association and Washington-based Can Manufacturers Institute.

“While the industry needs to work together to improve the end-of-life recycling rate in the U.S., we succeeded in increasing our own recycling activities during 2016,” the company said, noting to strides made by the company in the U.S. over the past year as it completed installation of a new furnace at Element 13, its Muscle Shoals, Ala.-based UBC recycling facility. The new furnace increased the plant's recycling capability by 170 million pounds per year, the equivalent of 5.2 billion UBCs.

Brad MacAulay

Editor's note: Due to an internal error, the original version of the story incorrectly stated that Constellium NV’s used beverage can (UBC) recycling rate declined to an eight-year low in 2016. The UBC recycling rate data was a measure of the entire industry, not specifically Constellium.

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