Although recycling of aluminium cans already comfortably exceeds the 15% rate that the EU packaging directive requires to be met by 2000, the industry is concerned about additional restrictions on the use of cans imposed at national level.
Speaking yesterday at a press conference in Brussels, European Aluminium Association (EAA) chairman Kurt Wolfensberger claimed the latest figures showed that aluminium was a "sustainable material" and urged the EU to take action against countries such as Germany and Denmark where there are bans on drinks cans in place or minimum quotas for reusable drinks packaging. The EAA believes these restrictions contravene EU rules on the free movement of goods.
According to the EAA figures released this week, the average recycling rate for aluminium beverage cans in western Europe in 1997 was 40%. Sweden led the way with 91% recycling, while France and Portugal were at the other end of the spectrum with 17% recycling.
Vaunting the aluminium industry's environmental credentials, Mr Wolfensberger also claimed that it was taking measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as a contribution to the targets agreed by countries at Kyoto last year. "Based on the current production level of primary aluminium, the planned reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases between 1990 and 2012 will result in a real contribution to the European Union's efforts to comply with Kyoto," he said.
The EAA admitted that it had no Europe-wide plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but said that emissions of one type of greenhouse gas covered by the Kyoto protocol - perfluorocarbons (PFCs) - were being reduced considerably, mostly through the use of more modern smelting plants. In Europe's four main aluminium producing companies, Germany, France and Norway and the UK, the industry has agreed to reduce emissions of PFCs by 50-75% of 1990 levels by 2000, an EAA spokesperson told ENDS Daily.
Mr Wolfensberger said that voluntary agreements taken at national level, rather than restrictions imposed by EU law, should form the basis of achieving environmental goals such as recycling and greenhouse gas reductions. He also gave his support to emissions trading and joint implementation - the so called "flexible mechanisms" mentioned in the Kyoto protocol. "Such mechanisms take into account the global nature of our business, avoid competitive distortions and enable developing countries to become involved," he said.
EAA, tel: +32 2 775 6311.
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