We were reading a community news feed1 that hit our desks the other day and it stopped us in our tracks.
Even though aerosol cans are easily recyclable – and 90% of people in Australia could recycle them, it seems around two thirds (66%) of Australians aren't sure what to do with them. The figure came up in a recycling report by Planet Ark and was reported by our counterpart organisation, the Aerosol Association of Australia (AAA).
Here in Britain, we often think of Australians as being steps ahead of us when it comes to recycling and sustainability.
Yet despite the good work of the AAA, aerosol cans seem to cause confusion with just one third (33%) of people in Oz correctly identifying them as recyclable; 54% incorrectly say they aren't recyclable; and a further 12% say they aren't sure. With Australians using a staggering 250 million aerosols every year, this means an enormous amount of recyclable high quality steel and aluminium is ending up in landfill.
It just acted as a reminder of how far we in the UK have come. Thanks to campaigns by BAMA such as our ‘Can Do’ Awards for local authorities, along with programmes such as the Alupro campaign, supported by BAMA and others, the majority of councils collect empty aerosols from the kerbside and most consumers know they can recycle them.
It’s salutary to remember that in 2001 just 7% of councils recycled empty aerosols; by 2009, 75% recycled; and by 2014 – over 90% recycled. This means that the 30000 tonnes of reclaimable high-grade metal waste produced via the 600 million aerosols or so used in the UK each year gets reused, not sent to landfill.
The latest research we conducted showed that the overwhelming majority of Brits know they can and should recycle aerosols and that, most importantly, most do. Of those who buy aerosols in the UK, 73% are recycling them.
We in the UK should be proud of this achievement. We’re never complacent; we know you don’t have to be bad to get better. However, we think it’s important sometimes to look back on how far we’ve come – and in the case of recycling aerosols, it’s a very long way indeed.
2. Survey by GfK NOP for BAMA interviewed 1000 adults aged 16+ by telephone launched March 2013.