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In a circular economy, the value of products and materials is maintained for as long as possible, minimising waste and resource use.

Metals such as aluminium and steel are permanent materials, whose inherent properties do not change, regardless of the number of times they go through a recycling process.

Such materials will remain at the heart of any proven and well-functioning circular economy.

PACKAGING FOR CIRCULARITY

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Metal packaging is lightweight but robust, stackable, versatile, and can be recycled over and over into new products.

Recycled metal has real value and is just as good as the original virgin raw material, only less energy intensive.

Using metal to pack products makes recycling easy. It also helps to reduce waste and save energy. By choosing metal packaging, we contribute to a more sustainable future.

PACKAGING FOR CIRCULARITY

Food waste has a significant environmental impact and sustainable packaging, such as metal packaging, is key to reducing food loss.

Metal packaging provides a long shelf life and protects fresh products throughout the supply chain.

The fruit and vegetables destined for food cans are packaged, on average, four hours after harvesting, ensuring freshness and nutritional values, without requiring refrigeration, for up to five years.

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PACKAGING FOR CIRCULARITY

Global resources are limited, yet society’s demands are increasing. Resource efficiency is a top priority for the European Union.

The packaging sector is a critical product value chain that can accelerate the transformational changes required by the EU Green Deal.

As permanent materials, aluminium and steel packaging can play a crucial role in helping to deliver a sustainable future.

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PACKAGING FOR CIRCULARITY

"The rigid metal packaging industry, with 78.5% of steel packaging and 76.1% of aluminium beverage cans recycled in Europe (2021), is perfectly placed to contribute to the circular economy goals of the EU Green Deal".
- Kale Symons, Metal Packaging Europe (MPE) Communication Manager

Circular Economy 🔄

The European Commission is undertaking actions to support the transition towards a more circular economy. These measures cover production and consumption, waste management and the market for secondary raw materials. In a circular economy, the value of products and materials is maintained for as long as possible, minimising waste and resource use.

Metals such as aluminium and steel are permanent materials. A ‘permanent material’ is a material whose inherent properties do not change, regardless of the number of times it goes through a recycling process. Once produced for the first time and properly collected and processed at the end of its life, it becomes a raw material for new and endless production loops. Such materials will remain at the heart of any proven and well-functioning circular economy.

Today it is estimated that up to 75% of all aluminium and steel ever produced is still in use.1 Metal recycling facilities are financially viable because they accept a wide range of materials. This well-established recycling infrastructure has contributed to high recycling rates for metal packaging (78.5% for steel packaging and 76% for aluminium beverage cans in Europe).2

Metal packaging provides a great example of a circular economy thanks to its endless recyclability. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology and indicators demonstrate how recycling reduces environmental impact. However, LCA is not perfectly able to measure the circularity of a product. One promising tool is the Material Circularity Indicator (MCI) developed by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.3 The MCI demonstrates the circular potential of packaging by measuring recycling rates over time and the ability to be recycled over multiple life cycles and reincorporated into new products. Adding the MCI to the LCA would enable a more comprehensive view of the sustainability of all packaging and highlight the outstanding attributes of metal packaging.

1 Metal Packaging and the UN SDGs – MPE

2 2022 MPE Life Cycle Assessment

3 The MCI assesses how restorative and regenerative the material flows of a product are (e.g. by recycling, reusing, or remanufacturing) compared to a linear flow, such as a product manufactured only with virgin feedstock ending up in the incinerator or landfill.

0 %
of all aluminium & steel ever produced is still in use!

Packaging Recyclability ♻️

Metal packaging is lightweight but robust, stackable, versatile, and can be recycled over and over into new products. Unlike other packaging materials, aluminium and steel do not degrade after repeated recycling processes, meaning that recycled metal has real value and is just as good as the original virgin raw material, only less energy intensive. The aluminium and steel packaging sectors aim to completely phase out landfilling of metal packaging in the coming years.1   

Metal packaging is quick and easy to sort and separate from other non-metallic waste. To date, 78.5% of steel packaging and 76.1% of aluminium beverage cans are recycled in Europe, making metal among the most recycled packaging in Europe and beyond.

The metal packaging industry is constantly innovating and thus improving the best sustainable packaging solutions for everyday products.

But without you, the consumer, correctly disposing of your metal packaging, the positive story would be very different. So, while aluminium and steel packaging have reached high recycling rates, the aim is to get those figures as close as possible to 100%. With this objective in mind, we established the Metal Recycles Forever logo, which brands can place on their rigid metal packaging as a reminder of the importance of recycling.

Using metal to pack products makes recycling easy. It also helps to reduce waste and save energy. By choosing metal packaging, we contribute to a more sustainable future.

1 Zero steel packaging to landfill – APEAL, Circular Economy Action Plan – European Aluminium.

Food Waste 🎯

Metal packaging plays a prominent role in tackling one of the biggest issues worldwide: food waste. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, one third of all food produced each year – more than 1.3 billion metric tons – is wasted, representing 3.3 billion metric tons in annual carbon dioxide emissions1. In Europe alone, a person generates an average of just under 200kg of food waste annually. Opting for metal food packaging can be a reliable option to fight this trend.

Finding the correct type of packaging is crucial. Food products require complete protection to reduce the risk of damage and waste during storage, handling, and use. Food waste represents not only a loss of the product but also the resources used in the production process: land, raw materials, ingredients, water, energy, and people. Food waste has a significant environmental impact and sustainable packaging, such as metal packaging, is key to reducing food loss.

Metal packaging provides a long shelf life and reduces food waste by protecting fresh products throughout the supply chain. On average, 81% of European consumers responding to a recent survey believed the food can to be a robust and strong packaging type that guarantees food safety.2 Canned products do not need refrigeration and are e-commerce ready without the need for additional packaging. In addition, canning avoids fresh food spoilage as surplus produce can be canned and kept edible for up to five years.

The fruit and vegetables destined for food cans are packaged, on average, four hours after harvesting, ensuring freshness and nutritional values, often to levels beyond non-canned products. Metal packaging is lightproof and hermetically sealed, protecting food against a wide range of external contaminations. In a nutshell, metal packaging plays a crucial role in preserving food and reducing waste. With a wide range of benefits, many companies in the food industry have already opted to pack their products in metal cans.

1 UNEP North America – Promoting Sustainable Lifestyles

2 IPSOS Consumer Food Packaging Survey

EU Green Deal 🌍

Global resources are limited, yet society’s demands are increasing. Resource efficiency is a top priority for the European Union. The packaging sector is a critical product value chain that can accelerate the transformational changes required by the Green Deal.

As permanent materials, aluminium and steel packaging play a crucial role in helping to deliver the objectives of the Green Deal. The industry is dedicated to continuously improving its sustainability and has recognised the urgency of reducing the world’s global footprint through enhanced manufacturing processes, innovation, and recycling strategies.

The environmental impact of can manufacturing has reduced significantly over the years. The latest LCA results show the impact on climate change has reduced by around 50% over the 2006 – 2018 period for aluminium beverage cans. For steel cans, a reduction of up to 30% was achieved over the 2000 – 2018 period.

These results confirm the industry’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions and to decouple production from its carbon footprint in line with the objectives of the Green Deal. The main factors which have made this progress possible are1:

  • an increase in aluminium and steel packaging recycling rates, with the beverage can recycling rate currently at 76% and steel packaging reaching 78.5%,
  • improvements taking place in raw material production,
  • improvements in the can manufacturing processes, including energy and resource efficiency,
  • a reduction in can weight, of 2% for aluminium beverage cans, for example, and 1% for steel food cans.


The metal packaging industry has made significant progress in reducing water use and integrating renewable energy, with large-scale investments in solar and geothermal energy. The industry is committed to achieving meaningful reductions in CO2 emissions and will continue these efforts.

In a nutshell, metal packaging contributes to saving raw materials, improving resource efficiency, and reducing GHG emissions. These are central components of the EU Energy & Climate Change agendas and the European Green Deal.

1 2022 MPE Life Cycle Assessment