The Beauty of Aluminum Recycling

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Recently I made a trip to a local recycling facility to dispose of a broken toaster. Recycling made more sense as the price to repair it would have likely been more than the cost of a new one.

While thinking about how far recycling has expanded in many municipalities over the past decades, I do recall early efforts back in the 1960’s focusing on aluminum pop cans and glass bottles.   In our community there were large metal containers outside the grocery store where you could deposit glass or aluminum cans.  These items were automatically weighed, and in turn you got money back based on the weight.  Aluminum cans in the 1960’s were heavier than the current ones so this was a small gold mine for a youngster.

However, the current figures for recycling of aluminum cans in North America are not outstanding. As of 2007 only 54% of beverage cans in the U.S. were recycled compared to 67% in 19921. Is it possible that in North America we are actually going backwards in our recycling efforts when so much information and work has gone into programs to keep garbage out of landfills?

And at the same time in 2007 when almost 50% of US beverage cans were not recycled, they exported close to 2 million tons of aluminum scrap which included aluminum cans.  These figures do not make good economic or environmental sense.

All aluminum scrap including beverage cans can be captured and reused indefinitely by utilizing modern cast house technology.  Recently I toured a modern computerized facility and saw how tons of scrap aluminum was melted and cast into logs ready to ship to extruders to be manufactured into more cans, bicycles, boats, cars, aircraft, fences, windows and a myriad of other products.   The melting and reusing of recycled aluminum does not diminish the strength or other properties.

Recycling aluminum saves 95% energy and reduces pollution by 95% (Reynolds Metal Co.) versus the production of new aluminum which typically involves open-cut mining of aluminum ore/bauxite plus transporting to locations that produce the raw aluminum plus the energy to convert it to new aluminum for processing.  Recycling is a clear win-win scenario for the environment and our wallets.

– Sue Johnson
Albarrie Head Office

References

1.  Fielding, Roger A.P, Benchmarks, Recycling Aluminum Extrusion Scrap, Light Metal Age, July/August 2009, Vol. 67, No.4, pp 32-35

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