When I was a child, I used to read through the night until I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer. I read everything I found – fantasy, crime, love stories… and there were several stories that I reread time and time again, but only some of them stick in my head still today. One of them is Michael Ende’s „The Neverending Story“. Protagonist Bastian took little Me on an adventure to the exciting land of Phantasién: He reads a book, jumps into the story to change what’s happening and then jumps right out of it. Michael Ende made himself immortal by writing this beautiful fairytale almost 40 years ago. His story touched people’s hearts all around the globe and it is still as popular as in the past. That’s probably because the book deals with important topics, such as the circle of life, becoming and decay, birth, death, rebirth – infinite renewal, to put it in a nutshell.

Now, you might wonder: What does that have to do with cans?

The answer is: A lot! Almost every can that finds its way into our shopping bags has a long history and literally a neverending story ahead of itself – if we ignore the few years it stays on my shelve. Maybe your chickpea can used to be an airplane, a watering pot or a car and it will probably be transformed into a bucket, a canister, or a license plate for a car. Packaging steel makes it possible because it’s practically indestructible. Depending on what it’s used for, steel can change its form but not its structure and characteristics. They stay the same forever. That’s why cans can be recycled endlessly and re-used for other products, which is a real neverending story.

Recycling Cans
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Recycling Champion

Each can saves twice its weight in raw materials when recycled. Good job that cans have the highest recycling rates of all packaging materials: 74,7% of metal packaging is recycled across Europe with even over 90 % in some countries. We owe this top rating to the efficient production cycle of the can because the different steps of this cycle fit together like puzzle pieces: The used cans are thrown into the respective recycling bins and are returned to their recycling cycle. Due to their magnetic quality, the cans can be easily separated from other trash. They are then compressed into rather large packages of scrap, which are used for the production of new steel for bikes, paperclips, or new cans. There are no limits concerning form and usage just like in the land of gnomes and dragons in “The Neverending Story”.

The Success Story Goes On

The novel’s message is quite clear – at least for adult Me: The power to change things into something positive lies in ourselves. This power also lies in the can – and is particularly important when we have a look at today’s European politics.

The Eu and member states are striving for a circular economy in which as many materials as possible are reused or recycled, saving precious resources for future generations … And what better blueprint for true circularity is there than the can? But I think that’s enough politics for now because just like Michael Ende says in his fairy tale: That’s another story which should be told another time.

With regard to cans – that’s for sure – there’ll be many stories to be told in the future. Just stay tuned for more ideas and canny stories.

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