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The Prospect of Aluminum Foil

2016-07-18

The popularity of aluminum foil, especially for flexible packaging, will continue to grow. Four-sided, fin-sealed pouches have gained wide popularity for military, medical, and retail food applications and, in larger sizes, for institutional food service packs. Pouches have also been introduced for packaging 1.06 to 4.75 gallons (4-18 liters) of wine for both retail and restaurant markets, and for other food service markets. In addition, other products continue to be developed for other applications. The increase in popularity of microwave ovens has resulted in the development of several forms of aluminum-based semi-rigid containers designed specifically for these ovens. More recently, special cooking foils for barbecuing have been developed.

In addition, aluminum foil is being scrutinized in regard to its environmental "friendliness." Hence, manufacturers are increasing their efforts in the recycling area. In fact, all U.S. foil producers have begun recycling programs even though aluminum foil's total tonnage and capture rate is much lower than that of the easy-to-recycle aluminum cans. Aluminum foil already has the advantage of being light and small, which helps reduce its contribution to the solid waste stream.

Well, for packaging waste, the most promising solution may be source reduction. For instance, packaging 65 pounds (29.51 kilograms) of coffee in steel cans requires 20 pounds (9.08 kilograms) of steel but only three pounds (4.08 kilograms) of laminated packaging including aluminum foil. Such packaging also takes up less space in the landfill. The Aluminum Association's Foil Division is even developing an educational program on aluminum foil for universities and professional packaging designers in order to help inform such designers of the benefits of switching to flexible packaging.

Aluminum foil also uses less energy during both manufacturing and distribution, with in-plant scrap being recycled. As a matter of fact, recycled aluminum, including cans and foil, accounts for over 30 percent of the industry's yearly supply of metal. This number has been increasing for several years and is expected to continue. What is more, processes used during foil manufacturing are being improved to reduce air pollution and hazardous waste.