What are Recycling Rate and Recycled Content, and how do they differ?

With the current strong trend towards environmental conservation, it’s time for all of us to pay attention to the environmental issues arising. While our consumption continues to generate packaging waste daily, recycling used packaging seems like a fitting solution to reduce waste problems. However, understanding the importance of both Recycling Rate and Recycled Content is crucial for a truly sustainable future.

But is there something behind recycling that you might not know yet? Today, Aluminium Loop will introduce two important terms that environmentally conscious consumers should consider: “Recycling Rate” and “Recycled Content.” How important are these terms, and how do they differ? Let’s explore the answers together.

When the waste we dispose of is partly recycled, the amount that gets recycled is called the Recycling Rate. The part that isn’t recycled often ends up in landfills.

Packaging waste with the highest recycling rate is aluminium cans. In Thailand, aluminium cans have a Recycling Rate of 85%* which is quite high. Easy recycling! Aluminum cans (mono-material) boast high recycling rates: Germany (99%), Switzerland (94%), Norway (95%).

**This is under study. However, the latest reported recycling rate by TIPMSE in 1997 was 99%, which might not reflect the current situation.

ข้อมูล Recycling Rate ของ EU จาก Can Roadmap 2030

While the recycling rates for other types of packaging are much lower than for aluminium cans. For example, in the U.S., glass bottles have a Recycling Rate of 39.6% and plastic bottles (PET) only 20.3%. This means that 20.3% might be reused to produce polyester fibers, plastic utensils, or even components of new PET bottles. Meanwhile, nearly 80% of plastic bottles in the U.S. end up in landfills, not being recycled at all.

Recycling Rate and Recycled Content data of America from The Aluminum Association

Now, let’s talk about “Recycled Content,” which refers to the proportion of recycled materials used in manufacturing products. This entails producing packaging of the same type from recycled materials, or even manufacturing entirely new products. The Recycled Content percentage indicates how much of the material is recycled. The higher the Recycled Content value, the more valuable the resource utilization becomes, as it can be reused for longer periods.

Aluminium cans still hold the record for the highest Recycled Content, with over 65%** in Thailand, the highest compared to other packaging types. In contrast, glass bottles in the U.S. have a Recycled Content of 23%, and plastic bottles (PET) only 3-10%. In Thailand, it remains at 0% because the law on rPET, which allows the use of recycled plastic bottle material for new plastic bottles, hasn’t been passed yet.

Recently, the UK is set to implement the stringent Plastic Packaging Tax*** forcing manufacturers and importers to pay an additional tax if their packaging contains less than 30% recycled plastic. This law aims to increase the price of recycled plastic and promote recycling processes within the country.

****Information from Thai Beverage Can Limited

******Uncle the Recycle Collector and the Missing Trash, the Plastic Packaging Tax law in the UK, 2022 https://www.facebook.com/3WheelsUncle/posts/1158326488249455

What’s interesting about aluminium can packaging is that it can be recycled over and over again to produce new aluminium cans indefinitely, known as Closed-Loop Recycling. In contrast, other types of packaging, once recycled, might be turned into different products instead of their original form, or if they are made into the same type of packaging, they can’t be recycled indefinitely due to decreasing quality.

Aluminium Loop also supports the recycling of aluminium cans, including setting up various drop-off points to make it convenient for environmentally conscious consumers like us. And we hope that by knowing the benefits and seeing the statistics about aluminium can recycling, you’ll be more inclined to make eco-friendly consumption choices.