Back to Basics

Metal, the resource at the core of our business as it is the predominant material in our products, scores high marks across all three dimensions of sustainability: economic, environmental and social.

Underpinning the format's sustainability credentials is the fact that it is produced from permanent materials such as aluminum and iron ore that can be infinitely recycled with no loss of physical properties. These natural elements maintain their properties forever, making metal a key contributor to the circular economy. In other words, once metal enters the material-to-material loop, where it gets recycled again and again, it will always be available for future use. This constant reuse into new containers or other metal products saves raw materials and energy and reduces CO2 emissions. Consider these facts:

  • Up to 80% of all metal ever produced in the world is still available for use3.
  • Recycling aluminum saves more than 90% of the energy needed to make new aluminum4.
  • Steel recycling saves up to 70% of the energy needed for primary productions5.

The sustainability narrative of metal packaging is driven by several key pillars:

Unbeatable Recyclability

Aluminum continues to maintain its position as the most sustainable beverage package, delivering a long shelf life, high recyclability rates and material value. For example, American consumers recycle aluminum beverage cans at rates 10-20 points higher than competing beverage package types6. Aluminum cans also contain about 70% recycled content on average, three times higher than other formats7. In Europe, more than 7 out of 10 aluminum beverage cans remain in the circular economy, with the overall recycling rate in the European Union, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland increasing by 1.8% to a new record level of 71.3% in 20138.

Steel recycling rates in Europe also hit an all-time high, reaching 77.5% in 2015 and representing an increase of 1.5 percentage points from 20149. In the U.S., recycling rates continue to hold steady around the 70% mark10, in part due to the high level of access to steel recycling. More than 18,000 curbside, drop-off and buyback programs accept steel cans, reaching more than 160 million consumers across the country11. This reach also extends to steel aerosol recycling, with over 214 million people in the U.S. having the opportunity to recycle these containers12.

This well-established recycling infrastructure is based on the fact that aluminum and steel are the most valuable of all major recycled materials. In fact, the materials are so valuable that they more than pay for the cost of their own collection and effectively subsidize the recycling of other, less valuable materials like paper and plastic.

Beverage Cans are the Most Recycled Beverage Package in the World.

  • Aluminum cans are the most recycled beverage package in the world and have a significantly higher global average recycling rate than PET bottles. A recent analysis of global recycling data by Resource Recycling Systems (RRS) established a global weighted average recycling rate of 69% for aluminum beverage cans, compared to PET containers at 43%13.
  • Data on beverage container recycling rates for 25 countries, representing 80% of the global market, were reviewed and validated by RRS for the study. Several of those countries have a more than 90% aluminum can recycling rate including Argentina (91.1%), Belgium (96.0%), Brazil (97.9%), Germany (97.4%), Sweden (91.0%) and Switzerland (91.2%).

Recycling aluminum saves more than 90% of the energy needed to make new aluminum.

A “Lighter” Approach

Lightweighting is fundamental to reducing the environmental footprint of metal packaging. The industry has continued to make strides in reducing the thickness of can walls and ends without sacrificing container performance or the critical barrier and strength properties that brand owners demand.

This process enables can makers to produce more cans with the same material and for resources to be used more efficiently, as energy consumption is reduced downstream in the supply chain, limiting environmental impact.

  • In the last 20 years, the weight of steel cans has been reduced on average by 33% while the average thickness of a three-piece steel food can is down by 29%14.
  • Aluminum cans are 40% lighter today than when they were first produced15.

Winning the War on Food Waste

One-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally, which amounts to about 1.3 billion tons per year16. This waste occurs in both emerging and mature economies, although it takes place at different stages of the value chain.

  • In emerging economies, more than 40% of food is wasted during production, handling and storage17.
  • In mature economies, more than 40% of food is lost during the last two steps of the value chain (e.g. retail and consumer consumption)18.

The inherent properties of metal packaging support food protection and preservation with long package shelf lives, making food and beverage cans a key weapon in the fight against food waste at each stage in the supply chain. In fact, steel food cans alone have a tremendous impact on preventing food waste. For example, packaging produce in cans rather than packing it for refrigeration or freezing saves over one billion liters of food per year19.

  • Time spent between harvesting, transporting and canning is generally less than three hours, preserving nutrient levels and decreasing product loss at processing.
  • Misshapen or less attractive produce that often does not sell in stores can be canned and processed as normal, reducing food loss at retail.
  • Metal offers an impervious barrier to oxygen and light, preventing contamination and spoilage before consumption. These barrier properties also protect product freshness, flavor and overall quality, providing long package shelf lives.
  • The format’s strength (e.g. impact resistant, puncture resistant, ability to withstand extreme temperatures and pressure) helps minimize product loss during transport and storage.
  • Portion sized packaging allows consumers to buy the precise quantity needed, minimizing product loss at consumption.
  • Recycling cans and reducing the amount of food added to landfills helps decrease the impact on our environment and saves energy.

Sustainable Innovation

Our innovations reach billions of people around the world every day, and we strive to deliver packaging that is functional, convenient and engaging. But we also go to great lengths to ensure our innovations are sustainable and environmentally friendly. Here are just a few examples of the dynamic technologies we offer:

  • The CrownConnect™ family of technologies has been designed to help harness the interconnectivity of the digital space, including breakthroughs in Augmented Reality and the Internet of Things. The platform includes:
    • CrownSmart™: an interactive application that allows brand owners to interact with consumers via a unique code situated beneath the tab of a beverage can.
    • SeeThrough™: leverages augmented reality to enable consumers to view the contents within a package.
    • CrownSecure™: a code scanning system that assigns every package a unique and singular identity quick response (QR) code - helping manufacturers build a data trail to help prove authenticity and provenance to consumers and manage product recalls.
    A key benefit of these technologies is the immediacy with which a brand can connect directly with a consumer. These unique engagement opportunities can be leveraged in a number of ways, including to share important sustainability messaging or even to direct consumers to the nearest recycling location once the product has been consumed.
  • Our Peelfit™ can enhances sustainability and optimizes product protection. Designed specifically for the dry food sector, Peelfit™ utilizes revolutionary Direct Heat Sealing Technology (DHS) to seal a peelable aluminum foil lid to a collapsed bead within the can body, eliminating the rigid steel ring typically required in double seaming applications of foil lidding. Replacing this ring with the collapsed bead makes the package 16% lighter than cans using conventional foil seam closures. In addition, DHS technology reduces energy use by 32% when compared to other existing foil seam closures.
  • Available in Ø53 and Ø63 diameters, Crown’s PVC-free metal vacuum closures are suitable for both pasteurized and sterilized products. To help enhance the look and feel of the closures, food and beverage brand owners can leverage our full family of external print finishes, ranging from spot gloss, gloss and metallic to matte and embossing. Adoption of our PVC-free closures is simple and straightforward since no changes need to be made to manufacturing lines.
  • Our Interchangeable SuperEnd® beverage ends reduce metal use by over 10% when compared to conventional 202 diameter (52mm) ends. This new generation of beverage ends is compatible with seamer tooling used with other lightweight ends on the market. Their lightweight design means less aluminum is required for the manufacturing process, decreasing the amount of energy required during distribution. This innovation advances the revolutionary SuperEnd® beverage end technology by further reducing metal use. Since the technology’s launch in 2000, more than 580 billion SuperEnd® beverage ends have been produced by Crown and its licensees, saving over 150,000 metric tons of aluminum, over 2,550 metric tons of coatings and over 1,160,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases.
  • Accessibility is another key aspect of sustainability. That’s where our award-winning Orbit® Closure comes in, as it has been designed to be universally easier to open, improving accessibility for all consumers. The closure consists of two parts: a central floating panel that is vacuum sealed to the jar and an outer ring that provides further product protection and acts as the opening and re-closing device. This revolutionary design significantly reduces opening torque and enhances convenience for consumers of various demographics.
  • With our 360 End®, the entire lid of the beverage can is removed, turning the metal can itself into a drinking cup and eliminating the need for separate glassware. Ideally suited for the beer industry, the 360 End® allows the full flavor and aroma of the beer to hit the drinker’s senses. It also makes the beverage can an even more appealing package for outdoor activities and situations where consumers want to be able to move around and sip their beer easily. Today, our innovative 360 End® is used by brands on beverage cans all around the globe.

How Our Customers View Sustainability

HAK Logo

"Sustainability has always been part of our brand strategy and is an important topic for consumers in the Netherlands, where almost 96% of steel packaging is recycled. By introducing the Orbit® Closure, Crown solved a long-standing consumer problem: the openability of glass jars. Now, consumers of all ages, including the elderly, can open jars of our fruits and vegetables effortlessly. This convenience also makes it easy for consumers to incorporate more portions of this important food group into their diets and minimizes the waste associated with fresh fruits and vegetables, which spoil easily and can go unsold on supermarket shelves.”

Adri den Dekker, Purchasing Director, HAK

Polar Seltzer Logo

"At Polar Beverages, we are conscious about the lifecycle of our containers and we aim to design our packages with fewer raw materials and more post-consumer recycled materials that still keep our products strong and lightweight. Working with Crown has allowed us to satisfy this need, as aluminum provides the optimum value for us and our loyal customers."

Chris Crowley, Executive Vice President, Polar Beverages

“Did You Know?”

  • A recycled aluminum can has the ability to be returned to the supermarket shelf in as little as 60 days.
  • Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to listen to a full album on an iPod20.
  • Aluminum cans contain on average 70% recycled content21.
  • Recycling one ton of steel saves 2,500 pounds of iron ore, 1,400 pounds of coal and 120 pounds of limestone22.
  • Recycling one aluminum beverage can save enough energy to run a 14 watt CFL bulb (60 watt incandescent equivalent) for 20 hours, a computer for 3 hours, or a TV for 2 hours23.
  • Fresh fruit and vegetable waste amounts to $26.6 million lost by American consumers and another $11.1 billion lost by retailers24.
  • Each item of recycled steel packaging saves over 1 ½ times its weight in CO225.