So with pine needles still littering the streets - welcome to 2022, a year that we hoped, and may yet prove to be, a decisive turning point in the pandemic, but which currently feels like the opening weeks of 2021. Déjà vu all over again, with pressures on public services continuing. Despite the pre-eminence of Covid-19 the public policy agenda did move forward during the last year with further steps promised in the coming months, all leading towards 2023 when things start to get real on Extended Producer Responsibility and Deposit Return Schemes, in theory at least. I say in theory, as with the pressures of Covid weighing down on Government, things may begin to slip.
Whilst the world has slowed due to Covid, the planet seems to have accelerated in terms of the climate crisis and extreme weather events. The global climate summit in Glasgow (COP 26) was a notable event during 2021 which has tried to change gears to match the acceleration needed.Novelis participated in some of the ancillary events in Glasgow and whilst ‘waste’ was by no means always top of the agenda, there was a palpable sense of progress from the people that I spoke with that recycling and circular business models were now expected in all sectors of society. As a sustainability frontrunner, Novelis has the ambition to be the world’s leading provider of low-carbon, sustainable aluminium solutions that advance our business, industry, and society toward the benefits of a circular economy. During the last year we pledged to become a climate-neutral company by 2050 or sooner and to reduce our carbon footprint by 30% by 2026 (from our 2016 baseline). We also believe that true net carbon neutrality encompasses GHG emission reduction but also circular, zero waste, closed loop systems and a reduction of the material footprint (resource efficiency). Only if you have both, you can be truly net carbon-neutral.
We will do this by maximizing aluminium’s potential for circularity, by developing and promoting novel, sustainable uses of aluminium while expanding its application as a recyclable material; and by ensuring the aluminium we produce is done so in a sustainable manner, both socially and environmentally, and is ultimately recycled and formed into new aluminium products. Within Europe the aluminium beverage can industry and supply chain have set the target of a 100% recycling rate by 2030, it is currently 76% and in the UK in 2020 at 82%.
As the world’s largest recycler of aluminium, we want to bring everyone along with us to make this performance the norm, including through regulation where it is needed to accelerate our achievements. Furthermore, to assess the circularity of products, we must go beyond just recycling rates and measure the recycled content achieved. The year ahead also promises much action on the EU policy framework, which could still influence UK policy and we will be active to promote recycled content targets in this arena if we are to achieve the ambitions we have set ourselves.
So 2022 might feel like déjà vu all over again – but the stakes have been raised, the course correction needed more steep and the speed of action more pressing. At Novelis we will do our best to push ahead and close the loop around the used aluminium cans collected in the UK through whatever means. Its what the public expects and it’s what our planet needs. Here’s to another exciting year ahead!