23 July 2015 by Tom Goulding

‘Bad planning’ refuted by aluminium sector

The aluminium recycling sector has been accused of bad planning, following a further ‘shortfall’ in the amount of aluminium packaging recovered in the second quarter of 2015.

The interim data for aluminium and other materials was published on the National Packaging Waste Database yesterday (July 22). It showed just 12,334 tonnes of aluminium was accepted or exported between April and June – nearly 6,000 tonnes short of perceived amount needed for the quarter.

The sector has raised concerns over the amount of aluminium packaging recycled so far in 2015

Parts of the packaging waste sector have raised concerns over the amount of aluminium packaging recycled so far in 2015

This figure follows a similarly weak first quarter for the material, in which just 14,871 tonnes was accepted or exported (see letsrecycle.com story).

Concerns over the data has led metal recycling association Alupro to reiterate its call for changes to the packaging recovery note (PRN) system today, in order to make it easier for aluminium reprocessors to get accredited.

The association has commissioned a third party research project to reveal the ‘real recycling rate’ for aluminium, which will be presented to the Environment Agency in the autumn.

IBA

The shortfall has largely been blamed on the removal of protocols for aluminium PRNs, such as mixed alloy cuttings, old rolled and old alloys. This follows research suggesting that the actual aluminium packaging content in these grades is negligible.

The Environment Agency has instead introduced packaging recovery notes on aluminium recovered from incinerator bottom ash (IBA). Alupro has estimated that around 12,000 tonnes of aluminium would be supplied through this protocol by the end of 2015.

Some in the packaging sector today told letsrecycle.com that they believed the problems with aluminium were largely down to ‘bad planning’ by the aluminium sector itself. They claimed that Alupro had ‘underestimated’ the amount of IBA that would be available compared to the amount under the previous scrap protocol.

One said: “The assumption was made that IBA would fill the scrap protocol. But the current figures show this was not well thought out and it will continue to cause problems.

“Aluminium sellers have seen very little value from the PRN system. The regulators are very stringent and a lot of reprocessors say it’s not worth their time.”

However, countering this view, Rick Hindley, executive director of Alupro, said: “The changes to the protocol could be seen as a short term risk because there is this shortfall. But, we were prepared to face this because there will be better data and when the IBA recyclers are accredited, which is happening now, PRNs will be generated.”

And, it is understood that one major IBA reprocessor has recently been accredited and more are in the pipeline.

Weaknesses

Explaining the background to the figures to letsrecycle.com, Mr Hindley noted that the low recycling results are the consequence of weaknesses in data collection, while ‘key players’ find the accreditation system ‘too onerous’ to deal with.

Mr Hindley explained: “There’s more than enough being recycled to hit the target. Clearly it’s in everyone’s interest that aluminium achieves its target this year but obligated companies don’t want to pay artificially inflated prices.

Mr Hindley defended efforts to recycle aluminium cans

Mr Hindley defended the sector and pointed to a number of projects aimed at promoting can recycling

“This research will allow us to see the real recycling rate, but we’re aware it won’t solve the problem for this year or force reprocessors to become accredited.”

Mr Hindley also refuted the idea that not enough is being done by the sector or drinks companies to recycle aluminium cans, citing the work done to promote recycling by Metal Matters and Every Can Counts.

Novelis

Other developments in the sector could be having an impact. It is thought that Novelis – the UK’s largest aluminium recycler – has had to import increased tonnages of aluminium from its Nachterstedt facility to the UK while the German-based plant has experienced some downtime. The company cannot generate PRNs on any imported material.

However, Mr Hindley said that Novelis’ recycling arrangements was “not an issue” that accounted for the shortfall.

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