Many of the food and beverage products we purchase come packaged in aluminum cans or steel cans. Both aluminum and steel are some of the most recycled materials. Let's look at what recycling is, and how products get recycled instead of ending up in landfills as waste.
What is recycling?
Recycling is a process through which we convert waste materials into new materials and products. Recovering energy from waste materials is generally also part of this concept. The idea behind this is to help tackle climate change by reducing greenhouse emissions.
A material is considered recyclable if it can revert to its original or virgin state, for example, cans, bottles, and paper. The materials are then used for new products instead of ending up as waste in landfills and causing problems.
The benefits of recycling instead of creating waste
- To recycle aluminum cans, we only use approximately 5% of the energy and emissions compared to manufacturing it.
- We can recycle this metal many times with very little loss to the material's structure and minimal waste.
- We can also repeatedly recycle steel without much loss of the metal's integrity.
- Recycling steel conserves energy, and reduces the consumption and waste of energy.
A lot more energy is used when these materials are treated as waste instead of recyclable products. Let's explore how these processes work:
#1 How does aluminum can recycling work?
- The first step in aluminum recycling is to shred the beverage or food cans into smaller pieces of metal. This removes the coatings or labeling.
- The shreds are melted into a melting furnace turning the aluminum into molten metal. This is poured into ingot casts to make new food cans.
- Recycling aluminum foil is different from cans because it's a different alloy.
- Foil is recycled with other aluminum scraps and cast to make lighter engine parts. This is great for energy-efficient vehicles since nothing goes to waste!
#2 How are steel cans recycled?
The recycling process for steel cans is much different than other metals.
- Steel is put into the furnace, and molten iron is added.
- Oxygen is then forced in, creating temperatures of up to about 1,700 degrees Celsius.
- Once this combination of steel and iron converts into liquid metal, it is poured into a mold forming large slabs.
- These huge slabs are then coiled.
- Once turned into a coil, manufacturers use this metal to make many different steel parts such as cars, bikes, and even new steel cans.
Are there any issues with recycling?
Aluminum and steel are both relatively easy to recycle. The only real issue is that not everyone is recycling!
The more cans go to recycling and not to waste, the better. Everybody should do as much recycling as they can.
By recycling, we can not only reduce the raw materials needed but much of that waste. Here are ways you can help the recycling process:
#1 Make it a habit wherever you are
Recycling when you are on the road or away from your house is important.
If you cannot find the right recycling center where you are, save the rinsed cans and bring them back home with you for recycling at a later date, avoiding generating more waste for the environment.
#2 Clean out those cans!
By rinsing out the cans, you cut down on waste and clean up for the recycling company. You can save water and use leftover water from dishwashing to do so.
Even tuna cans can be cleaned for recycling, but check with a magnet to find out if they are steel or not.
#3 Use a can crusher
If you go through many cans during a recycling period, it's a great idea to use a can crusher. This handy device will flatten aluminum cans in a flash, saving space in your recycling bin.
That way, you have more room for recycling, and you'll generate less ordinary waste.
#4 Find out where to recycle
Check online to locate the nearest waste management recycling facility, or if you have a curbside pick-up service available, it will help you get into a recycling habit routine.
#5 Check what can be recycled and what is considered waste
Some facilities take cans, some take plastic, and others only take the paper. Some are okay with all kinds of recycling.
Check with your local center what they will accept.
#6 Can all cans be recycled?
Some cans are made with other materials that are not suitable for recycling.For example, some potato chip brands like Pringles are packaged in cans that are not suitable for recycling.
To find out what is recyclable and what is waste, check with your local recycling facility.
Where do all my recycled cans go?
Your soda can isn't just ordinary waste. It can go to a recycling plant where it is melted down and cast into ingots to make new cans. It can take your old can as little as six weeks to be back on the shelf as a new can after it's recycled!
Foil and other scraps like window frames and road signs are recycled and become engine components instead of waste, making them lighter and more fuel-efficient.
Recycled steel cans are taken from the waste and processed back into a variety of items. It is such a versatile method; we can use it for anything from simple products like paper clips to large structures like bridges.
Let's look at some products made from recycled steel:
- Bicycle Frames
- Train tracks
- The hulls of ships
- Car parts
- Food and drink cans.
Recycling cans: CAN you do it?
Recycling makes it easy for anyone to do their part for the environment. All it takes is cultivating a simple habit and sticking to it. By recycling cans, you reduce the amount of waste in already overstressed landfill sites and save a ton of energy.
Anyone can learn how to recycle. Recycling is even accessible when you're out and about. So don't waste another second, and get on board with a recycling program!