Can Manufacturers Institute (CMI) catalyzed a partnership with a variety of local organizations to recycle more aluminum beverage cans during Mardi Gras 2023. Instead of going to landfill, many thousands of aluminum beverage cans were sold for revenue that CMI doubled and went to charity or local residents. Notably, the aluminum in those beverage cans will now be available to be turned into new cans.

In total, 142,974 used beverage cans (UBC) were collected and sold to a local metal recycling facility, generating $3,854 (UBC market value of $1,927 plus CMI financial match) for local charities and residents. Nearly all (93%) of recycled UBCs become new cans, which means these empty cans will almost certainly be turned into new ones. Additionally, more aluminum available to be recycled enables the aluminum beverage can industry to build on the beverage can’s average 73 percent recycled content, which will lower the greenhouse gas emissions associated with aluminum beverage can manufacturing. In fact, the carbon emission savings from recycling the cans collected in this initiative is equivalent to the emissions from driving a car a little more than 35,000 miles.

The Mardi Gras pilot program, Recycle Dat, collected UBCs in two ways:

  1. Having four recycling hubs and 10 can-only receptacles at strategic points along the most-used parade route during the daytime parades for the two weekends before Mardi Gras Tuesday. Volunteers staffed these strategic points and used a variety of mechanisms to get empty beverage cans from paradegoers. These mechanisms included specially designed backpacks for people to directly insert their empty cans for recycling, over-sized shopping carts, and grabbers to easily pick up UBCs.
  2. Encouraging people to directly drop off UBCs at the centrally located EMR metal recycling facility in Mid-City New Orleans.

UBC collection during the initiative supported local charities and allowed people to earn extra cash. CMI doubled all the revenue generated from selling the UBCs collected along the parade route. The money raised was split between three local charities—Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, Louisiana SPCA, and New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity. CMI also doubled the market rate payout for UBCs brought directly to EMR, and redeemers could either put the money toward the three local charities or keep it. Two-thirds of the cans collected were brought directly to EMR, and the rest were collected along the parade route.

“The structure of Recycle Dat’s can recycling component was an approach only aluminum beverage cans are able to support given their relatively high economic value,” said Scott Breen, vice president of sustainability at CMI. “In a quest to turn trash into treasure, we are very proud that this pilot effort resulted in nearly 150,000 aluminum beverage cans recycled and sold for revenue instead of going to landfills. We are excited to collaborate with local partners again next year to increase the ability for Mardi Gras partygoers to recycle even more of their used beverage cans, generate more money for charity and local residents, and turn more used beverage cans into new cans.”

“CMI was proud to collaborate closely with many local partners on the recycling effort,” Breen added. These partners included the local sustainable events non-profit Grounds Krewe, the City of New Orleans, the local tourism organization New Orleans & Company, EMR, and a variety of local breweries.

“A national group like CMI supporting recycling in New Orleans helps bring financial and communications resources that significantly expanded the reach of our Mardi Gras recycling efforts,” said Brett Davis, founder of Grounds Krewe. “It means a lot to me and the volunteers in this effort to know each used beverage can we pick up, or enable a paradegoer to recycle, is made from an infinitely recyclable material and will indeed be repurposed.”

This effort is one of many activities that CMI is undertaking to make progress toward the ambitious aluminum beverage can recycling rate targets set by CMI beverage can manufacturer members (Ardagh Metal Packaging, Canpack, Crown Holdings, and Envases) and aluminum can sheet producer members (Constellium, Kaiser Aluminum, Novelis, and Tri-Arrows Aluminum). The targets involve going from the most recycled beverage container in the United States with a 45 percent recycling rate in 2020 to a 70 percent rate by 2030, 80 percent by 2040, and 90 percent or more by 2050.

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