ECF Metal Waste Report
Metals are broadly present in a variety of goods with both short- and long-term use. In the restaurant and hotel industry, metals are found in the form of beverage and food containers and other aluminium or steel packaging. Metal cans are lightweight, convenient to carry, and easy to dispose of. However, heavy metals accumulate in the natural ecosystem and can cause harm to human health if they are not properly recycled.
In fact, metals are very suitable for a circular economy as they are eternally recyclable, and if properly treated, secondary metals do not face downcycling or quality issues. For example, recycled steel, also called steel scrap, reduces CO2 emissions by 58% in the production process. Furthermore, using recycled steel to make new steel reduces air pollution by 86%, water use by 40%, and water pollution by 76%.
Recycling aluminium cans is a straightforward and fast process: once collected, the cans are easily separated from packaging made of other materials and can then be transformed into new products within just 60 days.
In Hong Kong, metals made up only 2.2% of the Municipal Solid Waste (238 tonnes per day) disposed of at landfills in 2020. Meanwhile, only 48.2% of ferrous metals (contain iron) and 7.5% of non-ferrous metals were recycled, and most were sent for recycling overseas.
According to the Environmental Protection Department, aluminium cans are rarely found in landfills in Hong Kong due to the vibrant private market which pays a good price for waste aluminium cans collection for recovery purposes.
INSIGHTS FROM OUR TRIAL
During our trial with 20 F&B outlets in the SoHo Central District of Hong Kong, we diverted 302 kg of metal waste from landfill, which equals 20,133 aluminum cans. Although this waste category was not the largest based on weight, it is a highly recyclable material. Many outlets in the trial did not recycle metal waste before, mostly due to lacking infrastructure for metallic waste recycling near their premises. Otherwise, the recycling of metal proved simple and easily implemented by the participants.
GOOD PRACTICES & INNOVATIVE SOLUTIONS
ONLY Vodka Soda in Hong Kong joined the trend of canned alcoholic beverages and now produces premium vodka soda in a can. Cans are perfect for individual servings and portion control. The company owners ensure that their cans are made from aluminium coils that contain more than 60% of recycled content and are produced primarily using renewable energy sources.
Coca-Cola's purified water brand Dasani received a green makeover in 2019. Since then, it has been sold in aluminium cans and bottles made of 70% recycled aluminium.
Recycling Aluminium Coffee Capsules
In October 2022, Nespresso in Hong Kong presented RE:FARM, a limited-time, experiential showcase that highlights the full circular journey of coffee. Once collected, used Nespresso capsules are taken to a local plant where the aluminium is separated from the coffee residue. The shredded aluminium is sent to a scrap metal collector for further re-melting into recycled aluminium, while the Nespresso coffee grounds separated from the aluminium capsules are sent to a local farm in the New Territories for further processing into farm compost. RE:FARM uses this compost to grow a variety of herbs, microgreens, and edible flowers within self-contained farming units, which are later harvested and sent to selected Nespresso partner restaurants in K11 MUSEA and Rosewood Hong Kong. Nespresso encourages customers to participate in recycling their used capsules either by bringing them back to the Nespresso Boutiques in Hong Kong or giving the used capsules to the delivery person upon the next purchase's delivery.
Aluminium Beverage Containers
In 2019, Ball debuted its Aluminum Cup made of at least 70% recycled aluminium and brought those cups to Miami for Super Bowl LIV at Hard Rock Stadium. The aluminium cups were set to eliminate more than 500,000 plastic cups annually from Hard Rock Stadium's supply chain.
Deposit Return Schemes
Singapore is going to introduce a 10-20¢ (HK$0.58-HK$1.16) deposit for all metal cans and plastic bottles by mid-2024. The new beverage container return scheme is the first phase of Singapore’s Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) system, a programme intended to hold producers responsible for ensuring their products are recycled. Under the scheme, containers gathered by the return points will be sold to waste companies, and revenue from this sale will be used to repay producers and retailers for the extra costs incurred.
Ireland is going to launch a new Deposit Return Scheme in February 2024. Consumers who buy a drink in a plastic bottle or an aluminium or steel can that features the “Return” logo will need to pay a small deposit of 15-25¢ (HK$1.24 - HK$2.07) in addition to the price of the drink. When they return their empty, undamaged container to any retail outlet, they get their deposit back in full.
In Sydney, Australia, a Return and Earn scheme is available under which consumers receive a 10¢ refund (HK$0.53) when they drop off their eligible beverage containers (including cans) at return points across New South Wales, such as reverse vending machines, automated depots, and over-the-counter return points. The scheme is funded by drink suppliers who are required by law to register their containers and contribute financially to cover refunds and the operational costs of running the scheme
Aluminium Waste Banks
A smart recycling system composed of interactive smart can crushers and a mobile app has been set up in Belgrade, Serbia. When users insert cans into the smart crusher, they receive a unique QR code and accumulate points. These points can be redeemed for discounts on selected products. The Solagro platform assists citizens in locating the nearest machine and provides information about the recycling process, as well as tracks the number of recycled cans. Each recycled can earns 10 points, and customers receive a 10% discount voucher for an item of their choice after collecting 50 points. Accumulating 100 points generates a voucher for a 20% discount, and 200 points result in a 25% discount voucher. These vouchers can be used at IDEA stores, Roda retail outlets, and Mercator hypermarkets.
Producer Responsibility for Metal Waste
In Finland, producers and importers of products in metal packaging with a turnover of at least EUR 1 million are obligated to organize and finance waste management operations for their products. Companies are responsible for sorting the metal packaging remaining on their premises and arranging for its transportation to terminals that handle metal packaging waste. The aim of this legislation is to increase the reuse of packaging as recycled material and minimize environmental damage.
Aluminum packaging should be favored over other sustainable materials like glass due to its longer lifespan and recyclability.
Cans have lower transportation costs and require less storage space, reducing their environmental footprint.
Responsible consumption involves proper recycling practices, such as rinsing cans and depositing them in the appropriate containers or collecting them through recycling service providers.
When dining out, customers can reduce metal waste by choosing drinks made in-house, such as juices or draft beer, and opting for soda water made with a soda maker instead of canned beverages.
At home, there are limited uses for metal waste, but cans can be repurposed as holders for pens or cutlery.
Recycling metal is simple: rinse the cans and remove any leftover food to prevent odors and minimize the attraction of pests or animals to recyclables.
Aluminium and steel cans need to be inserted into well-maintained separate collection arrangements under effective and cost-efficient Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes and Deposit Return Systems (DRS).
It is essential to run regular and targeted recycling campaigns aiming at long-term behavioural changes among citizens to place aluminium beverage cans in the appropriate bins, thus participating in their proper sorting.
Supporting metal waste recycling by providing collection infrastructure closer to the points of consumption is also essential. It helps increase citizens' participation since long distances and queues to redeem deposits or dispose of cans could disincentivize participation.
Setting up efficient sorting systems and infrastructure backed up by the most advanced sorting technologies is a prerequisite for better metal waste recycling. Installation of eddy current separators at sorting plants is an effective solution to this problem.
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