Aluminum cans are a greener choice when it comes to transportation and refrigeration, compared with plastic and glass containers.

These are the findings of a report released by the Aluminum Association, which represents American and foreign companies, in partnership with consulting and tech provider ICF.

The data showed that GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions from shipping aluminum cans was between 7% and 21% lower than those of plastic bottles. The difference increases even more when compared with shipping glass bottles, which releases 35% to 49% more GHG than shipping cans.

“The light weight and stackability of aluminum cans make them highly efficient to transport,” Aluminium Association spokesperson Matt Meenan told LadyFreethinker. “[Cans are] about 15 times lighter than standard glass bottles, allowing brands to package and transport more beverages using less material.”

According to the Aluminium Association, there are economic benefits to using aluminum, as well. Meenan says the value of aluminum cans is $1,367 per ton on average, versus $310 per ton for plastic (PET) and $0 per ton for glass.

Aluminum cans also contain more than 3 times the recycled content than glass or plastic bottles, and are recycled more often. Still, greater recycling efforts are needed. Just 54.5% of cans were recycled in 2015 (vs. 41.3% for glass bottles and 31.0% for plastic).

In terms of overall recycling, The US has made plenty of progresses over the decades, with the recycle rate rising from 6.4% in 1960 to 34.3% in 2013, as reported by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Recycling overall

Data from the US Environmental Protection Agency

Data from the US Environmental Protection Agency

Data from the US Environmental Protection Agency

The U.S., despite the increase in recycling, is still far behind many European countries. Germany, for instance, boasts a 65% recycling rate and has made waste management a florishing national industry. All of the top 6 countries on the list have in place national and municipal policies to support recycling practices.

Infographic from based on OECD data.

Some initiatives do exist in the US. The “Recycling Partnership” aims to simplify waste collection and management procedures through cooperation between private and public enterprises. And the aluminum association itself has launched the “smart recycling program” to help municipalities.

Yet, the road to a more substantial recycling rate is still long.

Meenan explains, “It is absolutely true that more can be done. Each year nearly 40 billion cans – $800 million worth of aluminum – end up landfills, a major loss to the economy and the environment. Making a can from recycled aluminum saves 92 percent of the energy required to make a new can. Recycling 100 percent of all cans in the United States would save enough energy to power 4 million homes for a full year.”

Natural resources are increasingly scarce, and sustainability is key for preserving the environment. A thorough recycling program is not only an economic benefit, but it is also a civic duty to help preserve our precious environment for the next generations.