Metal Packaging Environment Sustainability

One of the main focus areas for MetPac-SA in the first half of Year 1 was on high volume / high value used beverage cans (UBC), is reported on as a separate category to DFFE. To understand the broader market dynamics, a Material Flow Analysis (MFA) was first undertaken in 2021 to assess the flow of aluminium beverage cans in the South African market. The analysis included flows from the manufacture of beverage can metal coils to its end-of-life and recycling. MetPac-SA has continued with the MFA in 2022 using member data and the results of the first 6 months are presented in the diagram.

There are, however, still significant gaps in terms of the accuracy of some of the data that has been collected, e.g., exports. MetPac-SA continues to pursue various avenues of data collection to provide a higher degree of accuracy. Recycled content and collection data will be provided more accurately as this is only calculated on an annual basis. The MFA is therefore updated annually.

Studies like the Material Flow Analysis provide a baseline from which to work. Building on this information will continue throughout the implementation of EPR over the next 5 years. Due to the complexity of the tinplate/ferrous value chain and packaging being such a small percentage of metal recycling it will not be possible to develop an MFA for tinplate/ferrous.

South African metal packaging types
that fall under MetPac-SA

Beverage Cans

A drink can, sometimes known as a beverage can, is a metal container with a fixed capacity for liquids including carbonated soft drinks, alcoholic beverages, fruit juices, teas, herbal teas, energy drinks, etc.

Caps, Closures and Crowns

Crown caps are widely used as container closures, particularly for glass beverage bottles like those used for soft drink and beer. Crown caps are made out of a circular piece of metal with a bent edge that resembles a crown and a sealing inlay.

Foil Trays

Aluminium foil food containers are food safe, making them ideal for single-serving meals or tiny add-ons such as rice, mashed potatoes, or salads. They are popular in the catering sector and frequently used in the food manufacturing industry.

Food Cans

A thin metal container for the distribution or storage of commodities is known by several different names, including steel can, tin can, tin package, and can.


Food preserved in specialty cans retains its flavor and freshness while maintaining its color and texture. They provide hygiene, which reduces health issues brought on by food contamination. These environmentally friendly cans are recyclable.

Metal packaging advantages throughout
the supply chain.



Due to its strength and rigid nature, metal packaging is filled at high speeds with virtually no product loss, increasing overall efficiency including energy and CO2.

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Metal packaging offers excellent space optimisation due to its stack ability. It is easy to handle in store, reducing spoilage and costs.



Metal packaging is unbreakable, reducing the risk of leaking or tearing during transportation.



Due to their inherent strength, metal packaging can be stacked to make maximum use of storage. There is no need for heating or refrigeration, saving up to 70% in energy consumption.

Metals are natural elements that maintain their physical properties forever. Once metal enters the material-to-material loop, in which it is recycled again and again, it will always be available for future generations. This means metal is a permanent material. Metal packaging offers several environmental sustainability benefits. The following key benefits of metal packaging sustainability:


Recyclability: Metal packaging can be recycled infinitely. Aluminum, in particular, is infinitely recyclable without losing quality. Steel cans also have a high recycling rate, with steel being one of the most recycled materials globally. Recycling metal packaging reduces the need for virgin materials and saves energy compared to producing new metal from raw materials.

Resource Efficiency

Resource Efficiency: Producing metal packaging requires fewer resources compared to other materials. For instance, aluminum cans use less material and energy in production compared to glass or plastic bottles. This efficiency helps reduce the environmental footprint associated with packaging manufacturing.

Lower Carbon Footprint

Lower Carbon Footprint: Metal packaging generally has a lower carbon footprint compared to other materials. Aluminum, for example, requires less energy to recycle compared to producing new aluminum. Additionally, the lightweight nature of aluminum cans reduces transportation emissions compared to heavier alternatives like glass bottles.

Long-Term Durability

Long-Term Durability: Metal packaging is durable and can withstand various environmental conditions, reducing the likelihood of damage during transportation and storage. This durability contributes to longer product lifespans, further reducing environmental impact.

Innovations in Design

Continuous advancements in metal packaging technology and design have led to improvements in sustainability. For example, manufacturers are developing lighter-weight cans and using eco-friendly coatings to enhance recyclability and reduce environmental impact.

Circular Economy

Some metal packaging systems operate within closed-loop recycling systems, where manufacturers collect used packaging, recycle it, and reintroduce it into the production process. These closed-loop systems help minimise waste and conserve resources.

Public Awareness and Education

Increasing public awareness about the recyclability and sustainability of metal packaging can further enhance its environmental benefits. Educating consumers about proper recycling practices and the importance of choosing sustainable packaging options can lead to increased recycling rates and reduced environmental impact.

Despite these benefits, it’s essential to consider potential challenges, such as energy consumption during recycling processes and the environmental impact of mining raw materials. However, overall, metal packaging remains a favorable option for promoting environmental sustainability compared to many other packaging materials.