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“Infinitely recyclable” aluminum cup quenching thirst for sustainability

By Craig Giammona
Bloomberg News, Shared from the 8/28/2019 The Denver Post eEdition

BROOMFIELD-BASED BALL CORP.

Beer pong may be getting more environmentally friendly.

Ball Corp., the 139-year-old packaging company in Broomfield that has benefited as beverage companies shift from plastic amid pollution backlash, is launching an aluminum cup.

The company says it can supplant the red Solo cups that dot college campuses and picnic tables across the U.S. with a product it calls “infinitely recyclable.”

It also has eyes on the beer cups sold at major professional sports stadiums, some of which will start using the product this fall.

The new product will be more expensive than its competitors, but the company is betting that younger consumers concerned about plastic pollution will pay a premium to drink beer from a more sustainable cup.

“We think they’re willing to make that choice,” said John Hayes, chief executive officer. “They know we’ve polluted our world and they want to do something about it.”

Hayes said the cups will initially cost about 25 cents each. A pack of 100, 16-ounce red Solo cups is available for $16.95 on Walmart.com; that’s about 17 cents per cup.

Ball — the world’s largest seller of aluminum cans — has been one of the top performers in the S&P 500 index this year, with its shares surging more than 70% despite tariff head winds. More craft beer is produced in cans these days, while Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo Inc. are experimenting with selling Dasani and Aquafina brands of bottled water in aluminum as consumers turn away from plastic.

Aluminum has more value than plastic in the recycling market — part of why it’s considered more sustainable. Cans are also less likely to float away in the ocean.

Ball has been working on the aluminum cup for seven years and is investing a “couple hundred million” dollars to build a plant that will make the product, according to Hayes.

The pilot test will start this week at a major university that has pledged to reduce its use of plastic. The cups should be available at retail stores in 2021, Hayes said.

 

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