Recycling is essential for a long-lasting development. It allows the resources to be saved and the amount of waste to be reduced. Aluminium cans are the most recycled packaging in the world and can be recycled indefinitely without losing their properties.
Aluminium cans are an important resource that is extremely valuable. For this reason, the aluminium used is rarely lost. The aluminium industry has all the interest to promote aluminium recycling as part of the industrial strategy.
- Aluminium has unique recycling qualities: Aluminium quality is not low due to recycling – it can be recycled repeatedly.
- Recycled aluminium saves energy: re-using the aluminium used saves up to 95% of the initial energy required to produce raw material.
- Recycling aluminium is economic: it uses less energy and recycling is self-sustained due to the high value of the aluminium used.
- Aluminium as part of the solution.
Sorting and Recycling Methods
There are different collection methods:
- collection in special collection centres, cost-effective but with poor predictability in terms quantity;
- buy-back where money is paid for the items which are out of use or damaged and where state subsidies are needed;
- mixed collection, of recyclable materials or storage on separate categories.
Benefits of Recycling
Besides the benefits of recycling for the environment, there are also economic benefits:
- Well-designed recycling programs are cheaper than collecting, storing or incinerating waste. The more we recycle, the lower the costs;
- Recycling helps to lower costs in places running waste collection programs paid on the basis of their amount and type;
- Recycling creates jobs;
- Recycling reduces the cost of companies, with the recycling effort being covered by the savings made.
Benefits of recycling on the environment:
- Recycling reduces the amount of waste to be dumped or incinerated;
- Recycling reduces the number of pollutants in air and water;
- Recycling reduces the amount of CO2 emissions achieved by extracting and processing ores;
- 95% less energy is used for recycling aluminium than the one necessary for the raw material production (60% for steel, 40% for paper, 70% for plastic and 40% for glass);
- Recycling helps conserve natural resources such as wood, water and minerals;
- Recycling prevents the destruction of natural habitats, biodiversity, and prevents soil erosion.
Source: Recycling Revolution
Generic steps in recycling aluminium used at beverage cans
STEP 1 – COLLECTION OF CANS
- in the supermarkets, in ECOCan devices or aluminium recycling containers
- at the place of storage of household waste
- at the aluminium waste collection centres (see EcoCan Network)
Once collected, cans are transported to collection centres where they are separated from metal, glass, plastic, paper scrap, etc. After weighing, these go to Europe’s cans recycling plants.
STEP 2 – RECYCLING
Actual recycling has four stages:
- Destruction (or crushing) into very small pieces, of the size of a coin
- Removing design (images, inscriptions) with hot air
- Melting in a furnace at 750 degrees Celsius
- Casting into ingots. Each ingot weights 27 tonnes, measuring 15 meters in length, and it can produce 1.5 million cans (Novelis source)
STEP 3 – ROLLING
The ingots are subjected to a temperature of 600 degrees Celsius and then cooled and thinned until they reach the thickness of an aluminium can.
STEP 4 – CAN PRODUCTION
The aluminium sheet is inserted into the press and poured in the form of cans. Then it is treated with a special lacquer to avoid interacting with the printing and is dried in a special oven.
STEP 5 – CAN FILLING
Cans are cleaned with pressurized air and water. The air is extracted at the same time and the cans are filled with carbon dioxide (CO 2). Then the content is added. Approximately 200 cans can be filled every minute.
STEP 6 – SALE
The last step is delivery to shops or restaurants