Only 52% of used beverage cans (UBC) in North America are recycled. Leading aluminum producer Alcoa wants to raise that to 75% by 2015, because recycled aluminum requires 95% less energy to produce and can be recycled many times with no degradation.

Greg Wittbecker, Alcoa’s director, corporate metal recycling strategy, explains, “Aluminum recycling is part of the clean-air solution. By recycling 75% of UBCs not captured today, we achieve an environmental savings of reducing 11.8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions a year.”

UBC recycling has fallen in North America from its high of 68% in 1992 for a variety of reasons, including inconvenient collection systems, technology stagnation in coated scrap processing and commercial objectives that have not been aligned with recycling.

To meet the higher goal, Alcoa has started to expand its recycling capacity by nearly 50% at its Tennessee plant. Additionally, the company is partnering with a number of U.S. recycling organizations to enhance industry alliances, as well as offering ideas to help increase the recycling rate. Among the suggestions is making collection more convenient for consumers and improving technical processes.