In a world where recycling and sustainability are high on the agenda, we start to look at what we can actually recycle in order to move toward greater sustainability. Questions like how many times can aluminum be recycled, among many other questions arise.
So in this article, my monthly statement edition, I’m focussing on one aspect of recycling, and I really like this subject as it buys into one of the main thrusts of my campaign, and that of Rutakirwa Foundation … that of the environment and sustainability.
I hope this might spark your attention towards what other materials we can recycle. Let’s start with the summary and go into more detail from there…
How many times can aluminum be recycled? Aluminum cans can be recycled an unlimited number of times with little degradation. Aluminum is therefore a valuable resource. This also applies to other aluminum products and materials. An aluminum can could be manufactured, filled, sold, returned, and recycled within a 45 day period.
Amazing right? And that’s not all, so let’s get into some more aluminum recycling facts and information…
Aluminum was discovered during the 1820s and was found to be one of the most abundant metals on the planet.
Since then, aluminum has been used to manufacture a wealth of useful items, such as aluminum foil, aluminum cans, and other products.
Around 26,500 tons of aluminum cans were recycled in 1972. Today, this figure is estimated to be as high as 800,000 tons. Approximately 100,000 aluminum cans are recycled per minute in the United States alone.
Each aluminum can that’s recycled translates to more available resources at a much cheaper cost.
Other than the economic benefits and cost-effectiveness of recycling, there are hundreds of thousands of tons of aluminum cans that are being disposed of in dumpsters, as well as along highways, rural areas, and in workplace trash cans.
The average employee is believed to consume around 2.5 aluminum cans worth of drinks each day.
Better aluminum recycling…
For this reason, workplaces have implemented recycling programs by placing recycling bins in hallways, break rooms, and throughout office areas in general.
This prevents a host of aluminum cans from ending up in landfills and diverts them to the recycling centers.
These cans can then easily be recycled and returned – eventually arriving back on to store shelves as new cans within sixty days.
In some cases, it only takes around one and a half months to manufacture, fill, sell, recycle, and then remanufacture a can of your favorite beverage.
Recycling aluminum isn’t a new concept; people have been recycling aluminum for around 100 years and a remarkable 75 percent of aluminum ever made is still in use today.
Recycled aluminum has the same properties as new, but takes only five percent of the energy to produce. This is the very reason why aluminum commands a high value on the scrap metal market, and this is what drives collection for recycling.
Aluminum can be reformed and reprocessed indefinitely.
Aluminum recycling is profitable and energy-efficient
Another amazing fact is that aluminum loses none of its qualities during the process of recycling. Aluminum is an extremely versatile metal and is used in a variety of products, ranging from foil wrap to window frames, and from food packaging to airplanes.
This endless reuse cycle is termed ‘closed-loop’ recycling. Aluminum is one of the most precious recyclable metals around, simply because there is no limit to the number of times it can be recycled.
The cans that we drink soda from can be recycled over and over again without any degradation in the quality of the metal.
Aluminum isn’t only of the most frequently recycled metals, but also the most profitable as well as the most energy-efficient.
Aluminum is made up of bauxite ore, and the process of aluminum recycling is a closed-loop process; this means that no new materials are added along the way.
Since this metal can be recycled endlessly without loss of quality, it’s been estimated that at least two-thirds of all the aluminum that has ever been produced is still in use today.
The next time you are feeling lazy and the recycling bin seems to be much farther away than the regular bin, you might want to consider the following facts:
Facts about aluminum recycling
- Recycling aluminum prevents the need to mine for the bauxite ore to produce new aluminum.
- Approximately four tons of bauxite ore is required to create one ton of Aluminum
- Recycling aluminum cans consumes a staggering 95 percent less energy than manufacturing new ones. In other words, the energy it takes to manufacture one aluminum can is used to recycle 20 used aluminum cans
- The energy that is saved by recycling, can be used to power a television for 3 hours or a 100 Watt light bulb for 4 hours
- Not all recyclable materials deserve the same bragging rights as aluminum, however, some materials such as steel and plastic come close to it
- Aluminum can be recycled indefinitely and never tends to wear out. Aluminum cans can be easily converted into new cans and returned to store shelves
- The cost of recycling an aluminum can is twenty times less than that of manufacturing a new can because of aluminum is 100% recyclable.
- The annual amount of recycled aluminum cans exceeds 60 billion cans
- The amount of energy that is saved from recycling aluminum cans is easily equal to that derived from approximately 15 million barrels of crude oil
- In addition to this, forty cans of aluminum provide the energy-saving equivalent of one gallon of gasoline
- Aluminum cans are one of the most frequently recycled consumer products
- The aluminum industry pays around 800 million dollars for empty aluminum cans each year
- Recycling one ton of aluminum saves around 10 cubic yards of landfill space
- Recycled cans are used to produce airplanes, furniture, appliances, window frames, and many other items
Aluminum recycling funds communities
Money gained from recycling aluminum often goes to organizations such as the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Habitat for Humanity, and local schools. So revenue gained from recycling aluminum greatly benefits local community.
Since aluminum has a high market value, it provides an economic incentive for businesses as well as individuals to recycle.
Some communities even offer curbside pick-up for recycling. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, recycling aluminum reduces the amount that ends up in the landfills and goes to waste by around 55 percent.
Aluminum recycling saves approximately 95 percent of the energy that is required to manufacture cans from virgin bauxite ore.
Unlike other recyclable materials such as plastics, there is no need to remove paper labels or scrub the cans clean.
The way that cans are heated during the melting process is more than sufficient to eliminate any of the contaminants such as paint, detergents or dirt..
Aluminum recycling disadvantages
One of the biggest drawbacks of recycling aluminum is its need to be separated from the plastic, steel, and other debris that often accompanies it. This sorting process costs money and is time-consuming.
The costs of transporting and reprocessing materials are high. While aluminum can be subjected to continuous recycling, it does eventually end up losing some of its quality. Therefore a product made up of new aluminum will be of greater quality when compared to a product that’s been recycled numerous times.
Aluminum recycling to me is one of the success stories of being environmentally sustainable. I’ll certainly be on the lookout for other kinds of recycled materials that are highly sustainable.
You can help too, the Rutakirwa Foundation is my platform for helping on environmental issues, and helps fund meaningful environmental projects. You can donate here, to help us run a number of projects designed to give back.
So my ultimate message from this article is… keep recycling your aluminum!
Till next month,
I remain truly yours,
Serving since 28th December 2008.