Aluminum Can Recycling Benefits

Aluminum has been used for thousands of years. Today, it can be found in a wide array of applications, with one of the most common uses being in canned foods and drinks. Since canned food consumption is so prevalent, it has made recycling metal cans an integral part of minimizing wastes and unnecessarily space in landfills. The best part is that aluminum can be continually recycled indefinitely.

Besides avoiding wasted space in landfills with aluminum cans, recycling aluminum is also an energy saver, which is also an environmental benefit. The energy savings is pretty astounding. It takes just five percent of the energy needed to create aluminum from scratch. That’s because making new aluminum cans requires a lot of electricity to turn aluminum oxide into aluminum.

In addition to the environmental motives for recycling aluminum cans, there is a financial incentive in doing it. Even when you take into account the cost of collecting, separating, and recycling aluminum cans, it is much more cost effective than producing new aluminum cans.

History of Aluminum Can Recycling

Believe it or not, aluminum can recycling is not a particularly new process. Recycling aluminum has been around since the early 20th century. In 1904, the first aluminum recycling plants opened in Chicago and New York. Recycling played a significant role in supporting Allied forces in World War II. Today, it plays a major role in our aluminum production. According to 2008 statistics, about 31 percent of all aluminum that is made in the United States comes from recycled scrap metal.

How Aluminum is Recycled

Here is an abbreviated version of how aluminum is recycled once it gets to the recycling facility:

First, a processing facility sorts the aluminum from other materials. The process uses eddy current, an electrical current that helps separate aluminum from the other materials. The aluminum is then cut into small equal pieces to minimize volume which makes it easier on the machines that separate them. Next the pieces are cleaned and put in large blocks to minimize oxidation. The blocks of aluminum are loaded into a furnace and heated to about 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit to produce a molten composition. Dross, the solid impurities that are found floating on the molten metal, is then removed from the metal. Samples are taken and then analyzed.

The Future of Aluminum Recycling

The future appears to be bright for aluminum recycling. According to industry estimates, recycling rates are expected to grow by 75 percent over the next 10 years. The growth in recycling has gone from 13.7 million tonnes in 2003 (the metric equivalent of about 30.2 billion pounds) to about 19.4 million tonnes in 2009 (about 42.7 billion pounds).