More than four out of five drink cans sold in the UK in 2020 were recycled, a record high, as nationwide lockdowns made it easier for people to recycle.

According to data published by the Environment Agency (EA), 151,515 tonnes of aluminium packaging was collected from UK households and recycled – more than any other year on record. The Aluminium Packaging Recycling Organisation, which runs the Every Can Counts UK programme, has calculated recycling rates for aluminium packaging, based on the Environment Agency’s figures. 68% of all aluminium packaging used – including drink cans, food packaging, aerosols, and take-away containers – was recycled last year, up from 56% in 2019 (+12% year-on-year).

When looking at aluminium drink cans specifically, 82% of those sold were recycled in 2020, compared with 76% in 2019. This equates to a 6% year-on-year increase, and a 28% increase since 2010, when the UK’s drink can recycling rate was just 54%. As lockdown restrictions ease and more food and drink is consumed on-the-go in public places, Every Can Counts is calling on people to continue to dispose of their empty drink cans responsibly, no matter where they are.

Chris Latham-Warde, Programme Manager for Every Can Counts, said:

“Last year’s recycling rates are really promising. The record-breaking 82% rate for drink cans is a fantastic step forwards on our journey towards 100%.

“With the UK now opening back up, we need to make sure that this great progress isn’t undone. Recent pictures of littering in public parks suggests more still needs to be done to inspire positive behaviour change, and also to improve out-of-home recycling facilities. Every Can Counts is continuing to work in partnership with local authorities, businesses and organisations to address these issues.

“Drink cans are infinitely recyclable, meaning they can be recycled over and over again without loss of quality. All the work we do aims to encourage recycling so that, ultimately, each and every drink can within the UK is recycled.”

Drink cans are currently the UK’s most recycled beverage container and can be recycled, filled and back on a shop shelf in just 60 days, thanks to the efficient recycling infrastructure in place across Europe.