Product Comparison

How does the aluminum can’s sustainability compare with other packaging formats? 

When compared to other substrates such as plastic and aseptic containers, metal’s mettle shines through to an undeniable degree. 


Beverage cans feature the most recycled content on average compared to other formats. Consumers recycle aluminum cans at a rate of 69% on average, globally—more than double the rate that they recycle plastic bottles and aseptic containers.


Beverage cans offer a 60-day turnaround from point of consumption to appearing back on the shelf, allowing the same beverage can to be used six times per year. PET bottles are instead often missorted due to paper labels, inks, etc. that interfere with processing, sending them to landfills. Aseptic containers are also likely to end up in landfills, as they must be downcycled into composite materials that may not make it through the recycling stream at end of life.


Beverage cans help to fund the entire recycling system due to their inherent and increasing value as a substrate. As of 2021, cans were valued at over $1300 per ton, more than 4x that of PET bottles and nearly 60x more than aseptic containers—underscoring the importance of recapturing and reusing the material. 

Two bar charts stacked vertically - see long description.

Two bar charts stacked vertically detailing different recycling statistics. The top bar chart, titled "Value Per Ton of Recyclable Material - The Aluminum Association 2021 Data," showcases the monetary value of different recyclable materials in ascending order starting from the bottom. The first bar, labeled "Glass Bottles," is marked at ~$20, the next bar labeled "Cartons" is marked at $22, the third bar is labeled "PET Bottles" and is marked at $299 dollars, and the last bar is labeled "Aluminum cans" and is marked at $1,317.

The bottom bar graph, titled "U.S. Closed-Loop Circularity Rates for competing Packaging Types," compares recycling rates by material in ascending order. The first bar, labeled "PET bottles," is marked at 26.8%. The second bar, labelled "Glass Bottles," is marked at 59%. The final bar, labelled "Aluminum cans," is marked at 92.6%.

The bars of both graphs have been designed to appear like the material their statistic is referencing. The source for this data comes from

  Aluminum Beverage Cans Aseptic Cartons Plastic Bottles
Permanent Material Yes No No
Zero Loss of Properties Over Time Yes No No
Average Recycled Content 75% (Europe) Cartons: unknown 11% (Europe)
Consumer Recycling Rate 76.1% (Europe) 51% (Europe) 58.2% (Europe)
Closed Loop Recycling Yes; 95% of beverage cans get turned into new cans. No Yes for some plastic types; but currently, only 2% of plastic packaging is kept in a closed loop.
Strong Barrier to Light and Oxygen and Retains Carbonation Yes - completely impervious to light and oxygen and retains carbonation. Some protection against light and oxygen, but incompatible with carbonated products. Limited barrier properties for light, oxygen, and carbonation.
Recycling Variability Can return to shelf as new beverage can in 60 days. Requires separation of plastic, paper, and aluminum layers; some coatings make recycling impossible. Often "downcycled" into other composite materials rather than recycled into the same materials, due to fiber restrictions and multiple layers. These composite materials are not always recyclable at end of life, resulting in a linear progression rather than a loop. Relatively few recycled bottles become new bottles. Bottles that are recycled are often downcycled into products like t-shirts and carpets that are often not recycled at their end of life.
Lightweight & Durable for Shipment & Consumer Use Yes Lightweight, but susceptible to damage during transport and storage. Lightweight, but susceptible to damage during transport and storage.
Economic Value (material price per ton) €620+ to 820+ (U.K.) $22.50 (U.S.) -€35 to €180+ (U.K.)

Data sources: The Recycling Partnership's 2020 State of Curbside Report; Metal Packing Europe; Petcore Europe.
*Includes aluminium foils and trays
**Includes non-bottle PET