Beverage Can Makers Europe (BCME) chairman Gerrit Heske told BeverageDaily.com that cans were thriving in Europe due to perceptions of 'convenience, taste and freshness', but that industry still had a fight on its hands to tell consumers the full sustainability story.
Speaking with Ben Bouckley at Brau Beviale in Nuremberg, Heske (also president of Ball Packaging Europe) said that many customers misunderstood the can's "key inherent sustainable property", permanence, which was seen as a negative in respect to biodegradability and littering.
He said: "Metal elements do not degrade through recycling, and can be recycled an infinite number of times and re-used to produce new products".
"The perception [of cans] in respect to sustainability, recyclability. We feel there's a bit of room for improvement," Heske added.
Every can counts
Despite progress in upping recycling rates across Europe in recent years, Heske admitted that the BCME and its members had a fight on their hands to up recycling rates in countries such as Romania, Bulgaria and Greece, where only 34 per cent of cans are recycled.
Heske said: "In many countries across Europe we've started our 'Every Can Counts' programme, which has been very successful to increase awareness of recyclability. That is a success story that we've taken over to other countries...we're expanding this project also in countries where recycling rate is below the European average (66 per cent)."
Comparable 2009 recycling rates for glass packaging were 67 per cent, 48.4 per cent for PET and 34 per cent for Tetra Pak.
Consumer awareness was one thing, but what was the BCME and its member companies doing to ensure sustainability from a manufacturing standpoint?
Heske said: "When we talk about sustainability (also the so-called C02 footprint), two main points are important. Fist of all, recyclability to get the product back, but also the weight of our product...We've done an incredible job here from a company perspective to decrease the weight of the can over 20 per cent in the last 10 years."
As a trade body, the BCME represents Europe's leading drinks can manufacturers.