Creating a Sustainable Metal Packaging Industry


CATEGORY: Materiales de envase BRAND: Crown Cork

John Rost, Director - Sustainability & Regulatory Affairs at Crown Holdings, Inc., and Andy Seed, WCP, Quality & EHS Director, Crown Europe, examine how the European metal packaging industry has become more vocal about its commitment to sustainability and the value the format delivers to brand owners and consumers alike.

Operating sustainably and being accountable for one’s actions is becoming more important to manufacturers across Europe. This focus has extended to how companies work with suppliers, with many making sustainability a key component of how partners are evaluated. As a result, suppliers across the supply chain, including packaging, must be able to articulate their sustainability strategy and performance and then back up their green claims with solid facts and figures.

One of the ways suppliers can achieve this is to participate in initiatives that are relevant across a broad spectrum of manufacturing sectors. CDP, formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project, is one example of a global system that “enables companies, cities, states and regions to measure and manage their environmental impacts.” CDP has built the most comprehensive collection of self-reported environmental data in the world and provides a consistent baseline for companies to report against. Crown’s own sustainability goals – to further reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 – have been submitted to the CDP for the past two years and on both occasions, received an A-ranking (on a scale from A-F, where the average program ranking for all participants is C), placing the company in the ‘Leadership’ tier.


Metal’s significant contribution to sustainability

As a format, metal packaging rates among the most sustainable in the world, scoring high marks across all three dimensions of sustainability.

For example, metal is infinitely recyclable, meaning that it can enter the process an infinite number of times without any loss of properties. As a result, metal has a value attached to it that has been the catalyst for an immense infrastructure to collect, process and reuse it. In fact, the value of metal is so high, that it more than pays for the cost of their collection and effectively subsidizes the recycling of other, less valuable materials like paper and plastic.

Metal packaging companies are actively involved in what is known as the circular economy, which relates directly to the processes metal goes through in its many and varied incarnations. A traditional linear economy sees packaging going from being made, to used, to disposed of. A circular economy picks up from the disposal stage, recycles the product and takes it right back to the beginning of the process. With metal, as we have mentioned, this is infinite – provided consumers continue to recycle.

Finally, according to European Union statistics, some 88 million tonnes of food are wasted each year, with a staggering value of 143 billion Euros. By placing products into metal containers, manufacturers are using the most resilient packaging possible. It provides an effective barrier to light and oxygen, which, if allowed to infiltrate, reduces the lifespan of many products. A product packaged in metal is shelf stable for many years, which has a significant impact on the reduction of food waste.

The metal packaging industry has proactively promoted recycling, with a major focus placed on educating and influencing consumers to recycle. Industry bodies have launched initiatives such as Every Can Counts (ECC), which encourages consumers across Europe to recycle cans when they are away from home or ‘on-the-go.’ The campaign began with a focus on the workplace, but has since expanded to target individual consumers, music festivals and tourist locations. Metal Packaging Europe (MPE) campaigns leverage the use of ‘Metal Recycles Forever’ on the product packaging consumers interact with. Through working with organizations such as Crown, MPE is committed to delivering an average recycling rate for metal in Europe of 80% by 2020. The figure currently stands at 74.7% - which still makes it the most recycled packaging material on the continent.   

Producers of metal packaging, like Crown, are supporting these efforts with their own contributions. In Europe, the Company’s sustainability goals are aligned with the those of the global operation and focus on three key strands:

  • Crown and the wider industry is constantly trying to lightweight packaging. Decreasing the amount of metal required to produce a strong, robust container is fundamental to reducing the environmental footprint of those products. It also enables producers of metal packaging to produce more cans with the same material and for resources to be used more efficiently, as energy consumption is reduced downstream in the supply chain, limiting environmental impact.


  • Reducing energy consumption is a key area of focus when looking to achieve the highest levels of sustainability as a manufacturer. Crown looks far and wide to implement improvements, down to the minutiae - such as switching machines off more efficiently, improving lighting and remaining open to advances in technology that have the potential to help improve energy consumption. One of Crown’s goals is to reduce energy consumption by 5% per billion standard units of production from 2015 levels by the end of 2020. As of December 31, 2016, the Company exceeded this goal, reducing energy consumption by 5.3% per billion standard units. Absolute energy consumption has decreased by 1.3%, while production has increased by over 4.2%.


  • Improving efficiencies in the production process ultimately feeds into a company’s sustainable credentials. At Crown, there are ongoing projects designed to reduce the number of changeovers associated with the production process, for example, and ultimately to rationalize as many lines as possible to drive productivity.


Sustainability initiatives are often trialled at individual plants and, if successful, are rolled out further and expanded to other plants. Once proven, these activities are codified as a best practice across the organization. Crown continues to drive environmental improvements by investing in a variety of energy efficiency projects each year. The Company is more than halfway towards its goal of reducing Scope 1 and Scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions by 10% per billion standard units of production from 2015 levels.

As of December 31, 2016, Crown has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 6.25% per billion standard units. The Company’s 2017 sustainability report references a 10% decrease in direct GHG emissions, and an 8% decrease in indirect GHG emissions, along with a 17% decrease in VOC emissions, and an 18% decrease in NOx emissions.


A sustainable industry simply published its results

While the metal packaging industry is drawing more attention for its sustainability initiatives, the efforts themselves are not new. The difference is that now, as customers demand greater transparency and overt data, metal packaging producers are simply more public about their initiatives and achievements. It is no coincidence, for example, that Crown attained a leadership designation from the CDP in the first two years it was involved. Nor was it a surprise when EcoVadis, a supplier of sustainability ratings in Europe, put Crown within the top 3% of suppliers assessed in all categories and in the top 2% amongst similar companies.

For Crown, sustainability is the very fabric of the organization. Making cans as efficiently as possible directly correlates to producing them in the most sustainable way possible, and this drive will carry on in as infinite a manner as the metal itself.



Crown Holdings, Inc., through its subsidiaries, is a leading supplier of packaging products to consumer marketing companies around the world. World headquarters are located in Philadelphia, PA.


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