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Brazil sets voluntary aluminum recycling record

BRAZIL: April 17, 2003

SAO PAULO, Brazil - Reusing 87 percent of the aluminum cans on the domestic market, Brazil set the world record in voluntary aluminum recycling in 2002, the second year in a row, the Brazilian Aluminum Association (ABAL) said.

Brazil beat out Japan last year by recycling 85 percent versus Japan's 83 percent of aluminum cans produced. Japan should announce 2002 figures in June, but given its slow annual growth in recycling, it is not expected to surpass Brazil.

Based solely on market economics - without any fiscal incentives, penalties or subsidies from the government - Brazilians recycled 9 billion cans, or 121,100 tonnes of the shiny metal, a gain of 2.6 percent on 2001.

"The profile of people that recycle aluminum cans has changed considerably in the last five years," ABAL said in a statement.

Traditionally recycling has been a task performed only by Brazil's poor as a means to eke out a living in Latin America's largest economy of 170 million people.

"Today, schools, charities, churches, retirees and housewives have become part of the traditional image of recyclers," ABAL said.

Aluminum production requires huge amounts of electric energy. But making a can from recycled aluminum consumes just 5 percent of that consumed in production from bauxite - a type of aluminum ore.

ABAL estimated the collection and recycling industry is made up of 2,000 companies that support 150,000 people solely on the collection of cans.

Some countries in Europe, where federal law mandates recycling, have reached 90 percent recycling levels. But Brazil, Japan and most of the United States have voluntary programs and are some of the largest recyclers by tonnage.

The United States manufactured the first aluminum can in 1963 and today recycles 63 billion cans of the roughly 101 billion produced annually, making it the world's largest recycler by volume but leaving it well behind Japan and Brazil by percentage.


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