The Aluminum Association has been making the case for packaging more beverages in cans, which can be recycled more effectively than plastic or glass bottles. One industry segment that’s solidly on board: craft brewers.
Canned beer has long been associated with poor quality. But that reputation is shifting, thanks largely to craft brewers.
A can of beer “just looks cool to me,” Jeff Hancock, president of Washington, DC, brewery DC Brau, told The Washington Times last week. “Nothing against glass, but I think a can looks much cooler.”
But the new take on canned beer goes beyond the cool factor: Aluminum cans also keep beer cold, preserve quality longer than glass, and protect taste. And aluminum cans are infinitely recyclable and super green.
That’s a message the Aluminum Association has been pushing for a while now. A recent op-ed in The Hill by the association’s communications director, Matt Meenan, notes that microbreweries are increasingly getting in on the canning action, as more than 500 American breweries are canning almost 2,000 brews.
Association President and CEO Heidi Brock says the green factor is huge. “Aluminum cans are recycled more readily and more frequently than any other beverage packaging type—period,” Brock said in a news release.
She isn’t kidding: The group estimated that in 2013, 66.7 percent of all cans were recycled, and much of this material made its way into other cans. Meenan notes that aluminum cans are made of 70 percent recycled material, far higher than the percentage for glass (23 percent) and plastic (3 percent).
Making aluminum cans from recycled aluminum is also cost-effective; it uses 8 percent of the energy of making cans from new aluminum.
“We like to think of it as recycling is really brought to you by aluminum in a lot of respects,” Meenan told the Times. “Research has shown [that a recycled aluminum can] can be basically back on the shelf as a new can in 60 days.”
Those benefits are bringing change in the brewing world: 55 percent of all beers are canned, up from 50 percent five years ago, according to Meenan, writing in The Hill. That growth came at the expense of glass-bottled beers, which fell from 40 to 35 percent.
“We think canners across the country are seeing the benefits of canning for its sustainability, its versatility, and also its taste-protection properties,” Meenan added in his comments to the Times. “So they’re moving to cans, and we love to see it.”