Huge quantities of steel and aluminium are used each year to package food and drinks and as luck would have it, both of these metals can be processed and recycled conveniently and successfully because they are highly versatile and infinitely recyclable.
Have you ever wondered what happens to used cans once they reach a recycling facility and how they are processed?
The Recycling Process – Steel Cans
Steel cans are separated from other materials using a magnetic extraction device; subsequently they are melted down in a furnace at temperatures in the region of 1700°C and mixed with molten iron. Once mixed this molten liquid is poured into large moulds to set.
Later the steel slabs are used to produce a variety of new products including vehicles and bicycles. The majority of the everyday vehicles and appliances we use contain steel parts.
Steel can be recycled repeatedly without any impact whatsoever on the quality of the material.
The Recycling Process – Aluminium cans
Aluminium cans are separated from other materials using an eddy current separator, which repels the material. The cans are then shredded into small pieces and passed through a magnetic drum to ensure that any remaining pieces of steel are removed.
The shredded material then travels along a slow moving conveyor belt, where it is blasted with hot air to remove all former traces of the outer coating of the can. Lastly, the aluminium is melted down in a furnace at approximately 700°C before being pumped into moulds and cooled down with cold water until solid.
Recycled aluminium can be recast into its original form as a can or start a new life as an engine block! The turnaround time for recycling aluminium is incredibly fast, in as little as six weeks, a used drinks can be fully processed and back on the shelf!
When you consider that these metals can be recycled over and over again, it seems bonkers that used cans should ever end up in a landfill site. Somewhere in the region of 8 billion aluminium drinks cans are sold each year in the UK alone – that is a lot of cans. It would be incredible if they were all recycled!
Recycling steel and aluminium is of great benefit to the environment because in addition to helping us to comply with the UK landfill and packaging directives, it also helps us to preserve our raw natural resources, save energy and reduce CO2 emissions.
Extracting raw metals from the earth is a process that creates pollution and this pollution can be immediately reduced, simply by recycling cans and reducing the unnecessary waste of valuable resources.
The first industrial production of aluminium began in the 1880s and incredibly, 75% of the first material produced is still in circulation to this day!
Recycling metal reduces the impact on the environment and reduces production costs, because once the metals have undergone certain processing elements, they never need to be repeated again.
Recycling cans is economically efficient and as business owners, through implementing efficient recycling strategies to handle waste metal, we can save money at the same time as doing our bit for the environment.