While craft beer might be a popular hobby and beverage, the impact of aluminum cans, particularly from small breweries, is proving damaging to the environment.
An article from Craft Brewing Business has been shared on Reddit, sparking discussion around the craft brewing industry. The article highlighted how just 16% of aluminum cans are recycled in Colorado — where craft beer is extremely popular — while only about half of all aluminum cans are recycled nationwide.
The reason for the poor recycling rates is that many cans are wrapped in plastic to get across the brightly-colored craft beer branding. These plastic elements are scanned in recycling plants, recognized as plastic, and then swept off to the plastic pile rather than being recycled as aluminum.
This plastic, if it does get into the aluminum recycling plant, will burn and release smoke and pollutants into the air, as well as potentially melt and clog up the expensive machines. Essentially, the decorative cans are wreaking havoc with recycling systems.
The article suggests some possible alternatives, such as using digitally printed branding rather than plastic or using zipper-style labels that can more easily be removed. The key issue is that shrink-wrapped branding is very difficult to remove, whether by the user of the cans or by those working in recycling plants.
“Craft beer’s recycling problem is caused in part by shrink wraps that are often used for decoration but are not recyclable and can contaminate the recycling stream,” agreed a Reddit commenter. “Solutions include using alternative packaging options such as label-free cans, educating consumers about proper recycling practices, and improving recycling infrastructure and public awareness.”
Another user was happy to see the issue being discussed, writing, “Yeah those sticker cans have always bugged the hell out of me for this reason (and so I never buy them). Glad to see a publication actually talking about that blatant problem.”
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