To understand the aluminum cup is to know the underlying differences between aluminum and plastic. For one, not all aluminum products are created equal. Extracting and refining raw bauxite ore (the main component in aluminum) takes two and sometimes five times as much energy to produce as new plastics. Using recycled aluminum, however, reduces that by 95%.
Products like the aluminum cup have opened doors for Ball to stimulate sustainability within the industry. “The aluminum cup is giving us an opportunity to sit down with major retailers in a meaningful way to have these conversations. They’re happening today in a way that we couldn’t a few years ago,” says Fisher.
He noticed the shift around 2001 when David Attenborough’s Blue Planet docuseries illustrated the grave consequences plastics have on our oceans. Now, increasingly, retailers and consumers want a more environmentally friendly option on their shelves. New products in cans, such as water and other beverages, are on the rise. In 2019, 67% of new drinks launched in the United States were sold in aluminum cans.
Though neither aluminum nor plastics are especially beneficial to the environment, global societies have grown used to the convenience of disposable containers. The absolute solution doesn’t lie in continuing to succumb to these deeply ingrained behaviors. However, it is a big step to do better, to manufacture in a more sustainable way, and to drink and recycle more responsibly.