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A can-do attitude is driving steel, aluminum to market

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Steel and aluminum scrap dealers who provide materials destined to become metal food and beverage containers see positive energy flowing through the market as recycling rates are again marking gains, and can scrap consumers say quality is improving as well.

The steel can, celebrating its 200th anniversary, touts the highest recycling rate of any food packaging at more than 65 percent.

Meanwhile, the U.S. aluminum used beverage can (UBC) recycling rate rose to 57.4 percent in 2009 from 54.2 percent the previous year but was still well below the industry's goal of 75 percent, according to the Aluminum Association, the Can Manufacturers Institute and the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries. The 3.2-point year-on-year increase marked the largest annual gain in the past 10 years, according to the three trade groups. Some 55.5 billion aluminum cans weighing about 1.61 billion pounds were collected in the United States in 2009, up from 53.2 billion cans weighing around 1.56 billion pounds in 2008.

"While we are pleased with the increase, we need all Americans to step up their recycling efforts to assure the availability of the can and to reach the industry's own goal of a 75-percent (recycling) rate," Steve Larkin, president of the Arlington, Va.-based Aluminum Association, said.

Beyond improved recycling rates, efficiencies and efforts, North American aluminum scrap suppliers greatly improved quality in 2010, according to major scrap buyer Alcoa Inc.

"The general importance of quality in the chain is increasing and we're very appreciative of that. We have fewer quality issues than we did last year, and when we do have one suppliers have been very responsive. All our vendors realize the value of finding better-quality material," said Leslie Shuman, director of strategy and supply chain at the Pittsburgh-based aluminum producer's Alcoa North American Rolled Products division.


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