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Companies Boost Recycling Efforts Despite Slow Economy

novelisrecyclingOrganizations are increasingly putting more effort into their recycling programs for all types of materials such as aluminum cans, fluorescent lamps, wood waste and scrap metal. Along with saving the environment, some companies are also turning a profit.

In the U.S., as an example, Novelis Inc., a producer of flat-rolled aluminum and a recycler of used beverage cans, has recycled an estimated 39 billion aluminum beverage cans in the past year, a new record for the company.

By recycling the used containers back into aluminum sheet for new cans, the Atlanta, Ga.-based company estimates it reduced its need for primary aluminum by more than 530,000 metric tons, saving approximately 73 million MBTUs of energy and avoiding the production of nearly 5 million metric tons of greenhouse gases (GHGs).

Used beverage cans account for approximately half of all aluminum scrap processed by Novelis each year. Aluminum products from automobile parts to building materials can be recycled using just five percent of the energy required to produce the same amount of new aluminum from raw materials, according to Novelis.

Novelis recycles aluminum cans at its plants in Kentucky, the UK, Brazil and South Korea.

Despite progress by beverage companies to deal with the environmental impact of their packaging, most beverage companies continue to fail five basic criteria — reduction of materials use, increased recycled content in containers, greater recovery and recycling rates, support of public policy initiatives to increase container recycling rates and disclosing such activities to stakeholders, according to the second annual Beverage Container Recycling Scorecard and Report.

A slowdown in the global economy has impacted other recycling businesses. Scrap metal dealers in the U.S., for example, were hit hard by a slowing economy late last year, causing demand for recyclables to slow in some states including California, Georgia and Vermont. Scrap dealers started to stockpile collections and some charged walk-in customers for their throwaways.

Yet, some organizations continue to see significant benefits from recycling their scrap metal. As an example, Georgia Ports Authority says its decade-long recycling efforts are paying off with 2.73 million pounds of scrap metal recycled at the Port of Savannah last year, according to Ledger-Enquirer.com. Selling the scrap pays for the recycling program at the Savannah port, that is claimed as the fourth largest in the U.S.

Port officials say the recycled metal accounts for about 32 percent of the total solid waste generated at the Savannah port in 2008. The port recycles scrap metal from damaged equipment, used parts, cables and other materials.

In the UK, recyclers are boosting both their recycling efforts and their bottom lines.

Mercury Recycling Group, a Manchester, UK-based waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) recycling company says it has made profits on its recycling services over the past year despite the recession, according to Rapid Electronics Online.

The company, which recycles fluorescent light tubes and sodium street lights, achieved a 20 percent rise in profits up in 2008, according to Crains Manchester Business.

Mercury Recycling Group said in the article that about 80 million out of the 130 million lighting devices that are disposed of as WEEE in the UK are still not being recycled and it hopes to expand its services.

In addition, lighting manufacturer Recolight, based in the UK, recently launched a new WEEE recycling guide for manufacturers, according to the article.

Last September, despite an official warning from the government, manufacturers and wholesalers of fluorescent lamps in the UK continued to impose a 16p (about 28 cents) per unit charge on customers to cover compliance costs related to the European Union’s WEEE directive even though the practice is illegal under legislation.

With lumber and paper markets depressed, it’s been noted that some companies plan to convert wood and paper waste into electricity by building plants that will burn wood wastes from their sawmill and black liquor from their pulping operation to fuel the power plant.

In the UK, Hadfield Wood Recyclers is opening a new site at Tilbury Docks to collect and pre-process waste wood. The two-acre site will be operational in May. The company says there is huge demand for a wood recycler that can take all grades of wood and recycle it into sustainable and environmentally-friendly products.

The wood recycler accepts all grades of non-hazardous waste wood including MDF, chipboard, plywood and melamine, and recycles it into a number of different products including equine, poultry and cattle bedding, equestrian surfaces, panelboard and biomass wood chip for fuel. The new site will be able to handle 100,000 tons of waste wood a year.

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