Do you think of your empty soda cans and food cans as a natural resource? They are. Americans currently discard about 2.7 million tons of aluminum each year. Of that, about 50 percent is recycled. Apart from the economic impact, the environmental savings of recycling metal are enormous. Recycling steel and tin cans, for example, saves 74% of the energy used to produce them.
On average, Americans drink one beverage from an aluminum can every day.But we recycle just over 49% of the cans we use.
Since the cans are 100% recyclable, we could drastically reduce the energy needed to produce brand new cans simply by recycling our empties.
An aluminum can is able to be returned to the shelf, as a new can, as quickly as 60 days after it's put into your recycling container.
Coast-to-coast, there are about 10, 000 locations that buy aluminum, making it easy for Americans to redeem their used beverage cans for cash. In fact, recycling aluminum cans is a $1 billion/year industry in this country.
Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to run a television for three hours.
A Day in the Life of a Recycled Can
- Customer takes can to a recycling center or puts it into a recycling bin.
- The can is transported to a processing facility.
- A giant magnet lifts out cans that are made of metals such steel. Since aluminum cans aren't magnetic, they drop down to a conveyor belt and are gathered.
- The aluminum is shredded, washed and turned into aluminum chips.
- The chips are melted in a large furnace.
- The melted aluminum is poured into molds called "ingots."
- The ingots are taken to a factory where they're melted into rolls of thin, flat sheets.
- From the sheets, manufacturers make new products, including new beverage cans, pie pans, license plate frames, and aluminum foil.
- Beverage companies fill the cans and deliver them to grocery stores for customers to purchase.
- Customers take used cans to a recycling center and the process starts all over again.