An action roadmap for aerosol recycling

It is expected that mandatory recycling targets of 50 percent for aluminium and 85 percent for steel packaging by 2030 will form part of new packaging Extended Producer Responsibility (pEPR) reforms. Both aluminium and steel aerosols will have an important role in helping achieve these targets; however, aerosol recycling is not currently optimised.

With the advent of pEPR, the current lower than needed levels of aerosol recycling among households could result in producers and users paying large fees for using steel and aluminium, the world’s most recyclable materials, in aerosols. At the same time, this could undermine the sustainability credentials of aerosols if less recyclable and sustainable materials were to be used instead, despite technology being established enough to ensure high quality recycling of metal aerosols.

The industry needed help to understand where the greatest losses of discarded aerosols are from the recycling stream, the obstacles to improving capture and recycling, and which solutions can be implemented quickly.

Objectives

Kerbside recycling collections across the UK means over 90 percent of UK households have the infrastructure ready for them to recycle aerosols effectively. Against this backdrop, there are high levels of confusion and a lack of public confidence on how to recycle aerosols, resulting in large quantities of valuable materials lost in black bag collections.

The aim of this research was to collect robust evidence to support the development of a roadmap that would enable aerosol recycling rates to increase and generate a sustainable market for recycled aerosols.

Approach

On behalf of the UK Aerosol Recycling Initiative, Resource Futures carried out detailed waste compositional analysis of recycling and residual waste arisings, focussed on aerosols. Alongside this we conducted a nationwide survey that researched household aerosol recycling practices.

Beyond this, Resource Futures completed a review of how aerosol recycling is communicated to the public by local authorities, as well as interviews with stakeholders throughout the value chain.

The focus of investigation was centred on answering three key questions:

1. Where are the greatest losses of aerosols from the recycling stream and why?

2. What are the greatest obstacles to increasing aerosol recycling?

3. What are the potential solutions that enable increased recycling?

Outcomes

Through analysis of public survey data, stakeholder interviews and detailed waste compositional work, major obstacles were identified that are limiting the effectiveness of current technological capabilities and the ability to report accurately on aerosol recycling. To address the obstacles a roadmap of action was developed.

The roadmap was launched on Wednesday 19 April 2023 alongside the annual BAMA innovation day at the Royal Armouries in Leeds, attended by influential thinkers and innovative manufacturers in the aerosol industry.

You can access the full roadmap here

The published roadmap and associated detailed report is the first step in overcoming the primary obstacles identified in the research.

By acting now, Alupro is working to:

  • Fill the gaps in data on household aerosol recycling rates and losses throughout the value chain;
  • Improve public knowledge, confidence and understanding about aerosols and responsible recycling practices;
  • Support the development of consistency in collection infrastructure and services;
  • Help ensure sorting processes are optimised and remain safe as aerosol volumes and concentrations increase;
  • Support the industry in retaining and maximising the value of aerosols in treatment processes; and,
  • Encourage changes in the design of aerosols to reduce contamination of metals when sent for recycling.

When looking for solutions to major problems, action is often limited to a focus on technological change. What was important to us at Alupro was understanding the arrangement of obstacles that went beyond the regulatory or technological.

Working with Resource Futures helped us develop evidence-based options for increasing the readiness levels of the market, the public and the industry, to support the change needed to help achieve high recycling levels.

Martin Hyde, Sustainability and Public Affairs Manager at Alupro

Project Information

Services involved

Circular Economy

Team involved

Ann Stevenson
Circular Economy Lead

Sam Reeve
CEO

Sarah Hargreaves
Behaviour Change Lead / Principal Consultant

Katie Reid
Consultant

James Dunn
Consultant

Sally Scholefield
Senior Consultant / Designer

Archana Pisharody
Senior Consultant

Susan Gow
Senior Consultant