From vision to reality - APEAL sets out six policy recommendations to keep steel packaging in the circular loop

Source: iStock via APEAL

By Alexis Van Maercke

Alexis Van Maercke is Secretary General of APEAL

30 May 2022

In 2021, for the ninth consecutive year, APEAL reported an increase in the overall recycling rate of steel packaging in Europe. The new all-time high of 84% represented an increase of 1.5% and highlighted steel as one of the most sustainable packaging solutions available.

Meanwhile, despite the excellent recycling rates for steel packaging achieved across Europe, APEAL believes that more can be done to help Europe achieve a more circular economy.

Despite a recycling rate of over 90% in countries such as Belgium, France and Germany, too much still ends up in household residual waste. This is due primarily to the lack of access to well organised collection systems, infrastructure and citizen sorting initiatives. The residual waste is then incinerated or landfilled.

We believe more can be done to boost both the quantity and quality of steel packaging to recycling and that all stakeholders have a meaningful role to play in the drive for a more circular economy.

In line with this we have launched our new vision: zero steel packaging to landfill by 2025.

Having a vision in not enough. Our latest recycling report, Why steel recycles forever; how to collect, recover and sort steel for packaging, focuses on best practices across Europe, and also sets out six policy recommendations to achieve that vision and boost both the quality and quantity of steel sent to recycling operations.

Optimised separate collection

  • High-quality recycling is best guaranteed by optimised separate collection and sorting scenarios for household waste

Pre-treatment prior to incineration

  • To extract recyclable packaging and provide high quality input to recycling operations, replacing virgin material in the production of new steel products

No recyclable packaging to landfill

  • To accelerate the phase-out of landfilling recyclable packaging waste APEAL recommends a review of the Landfill Directive. Recyclable materials, particularly permanent materials such as steel, are too valuable to be buried in the ground

Second overband in sorting plants

  • To ensure smaller items including caps, ends and closures are captured for recycling and valuable resources are diverted from landfill

Defined quality requirements

  • To deliver high quality material at each stage of the collection, sorting and additional treatment phases before delivery to recycling operations

Consumer involvement

  • To help citizens sort and dispose of steel packaging waste correctly, APEAL recommends involving consumers by means of simple and easy to understand sorting instructions, brought via communications campaigns, or enforcement to motivate and incentivise participation.

The objective remains to help stakeholders throughout the value chain work collaboratively to keep materials like steel, which are too valuable to end up in landfill, in the circular loop and ultimately, achieve APEAL’s vision of zero steel packaging to landfill by 2025.


APEAL, the Association of European Producers of Steel for Packaging, is a federation of the six major producers of steel for packaging in Europe. Its members – Acciaierie d’Italia, ArcelorMittal, Liberty Liège-Dudelange, Tata Steel, thyssenkrupp Rasselstein and U.S. Steel Košice - employ over 200,000 workers in Europe, 15,000 of whom are employed directly the production of steel for packaging across 11 dedicated manufacturing sites.

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About Steel for Packaging  

Steel is a unique packaging material, combining exceptional performance capabilities with unrivalled environmental credentials. Strong, formable and long-lasting, steel offers numerous benefits for the safe packaging of a wide variety of products.

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This article reflects the views of the author and not the views of The Parliament Magazine or of the Dods Group

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