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Beverage Containers


Why Recycle and Use Recycled Content?

American consumers purchase over 500 million beverage bottles and cans, on average, every day. Only about one in three are recycled while two out of three beverage containers sold are landfilled, incinerated or littered.

Each year we are producing more beverages and recycling a smaller portion of the containers. According to the Container Recycling Institute (CRI), beverage sales have increased over five-fold in the last 30 years while U.S. container recycling rates have declined from 53.5% in 1992 to 33.5% in 2004.


In 2003,1 containers and packaging, at 32%, comprised the largest segment of U.S. municipal solid waste2, and beverage containers made up approximately 15% of all packaging and nearly 5% by weight of total waste (estimated from EPA data, 2005).

Beverage bottles and cans are not only a large portion of packaging, but are also some of the most easily recycled and most economically valuable materials in our waste stream. Replacing these cans and bottles with new containers made from virgin materials consumes substantive amounts of energy, water and other natural resources, creates greenhouse gas emissions fueling global warming and other pollutants and increases dependence on foreign oil.

In a study of energy and emissions profile of the materials in the 1997 U.S. municipal waste, Valiente (2000) estimated that aluminum cans contributed 14% of emissions embodied in a ton of divertible waste that was landfilled, even though they comprised only 1.4% of the entire waste stream by weight. Using recovered materials in container manufacture, especially post consumer materials, saves energy, water, and natural resources, and reduces waste and global warming pollution.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Energy Savings Using calculations based on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) WASTE Reduction Model (WARM), an estimated 3 million metric tons of carbon equivalent (MTCE) of greenhouse gas emissions are being avoided annually at the current (2004) rate of overall beverage container recycling (about 33.5%).

If the current level of beverage container sales were to remain constant (nearly 200 billion units sold per year) but the overall recycling rate were to reach 80%, then approximately an additional 3 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions (double current avoided emissions) would be avoided. These additional avoided emissions are equivalent to taking nearly 2.4 million cars off the road for one year.

Published with permission from The Container Recycling Institute.



The Container Recycling Institute (CRI) is a nonprofit organization that studies and promotes policies and programs that increase recovery and recycling of beverage containers, and shift the social and environmental costs associated with manufacturing, recycling, and disposal of container and packaging waste from government and taxpayers to producers and consumers. CRI is located in Washington D.C.


1. Latest year for which EPA data has been made available.

2. Household trash or garbage that is commonly thrown away amounted to 236.2 million tons.



Recycling For Charities
Wellesley, MA 02481

Recycling saves 95 percent of the energy required to make aluminum from ore.
If the recycling rate were to reach 80% at the current level of beverage container sales, nearly 3 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions would be avoided. This is equivalent to taking nearly 2.4 million cars off the road for a full year.

U.S. Beverage Container Recycling Scorecard and Report
In 1972, 53 million pounds of aluminum were recycled. Today, we exceed that amount weekly.
Copyright © 2001 Recycling For Charities. All rights reserved. Revised: 08/26/11