Why Recycle Aluminium Cans?

The Basic Facts

Nearly 8 billion cans of drink are sold in the UK each year, and most of those cans are made from aluminium. That's a lot of cans! Unfortunately not all of these cans get recycled, and although approximately 40% do get recycled the rest of them get buried in landfill sites, where they take approximately 500 years to decay. That's a long time! However if the cans are recycled they can be back on the shelf within 6 weeks! Aluminium is one of the few materials that can be recycled again and again, with no loss in quality. In fact over 75% of the aluminium ever produced is still in use today. Aluminium is a very energy intensive material to produce. It is not found naturally in the earths crust, it is extracted from the ore bauxite. The bauxite is first mined and then smelted to produce the final product. It only takes 5% of the energy used to produce aluminium to recycle it, so as you can see it clearly makes sense to recycle these cans!

I put my cans in the recycling bin, surely I am doing my bit?

Yes you are doing your bit! But have you ever thought about what happens after you put your cans in the bin? Think about that for a moment and then consider this. First off you have done your part by seperating the recycleable materials and putting them in the bin, but they are all now mixed together! You have paper, plastic, glass, steel and aluminium all in the same place. This then gets picked up by your friendly dustman and emptied into the back of the dustcart and compacted. When the dustcart is full it gets taken to a holding pit (I know this, I used to work as a dustman!) and emptied so that the dustcart can go out and collect more rubbish. Then at the end of the day all of the collected rubbish gets loaded onto more lorries and taken to the recycling plant. Now the first thing that has to be done is the rubbish needs to be separated back into paper, plastic, glass, steel and aluminium. This is now a bit of a headache, seeing as it has all been squashed together, any leaking liquids have stuck the paper to everything, you get the picture, its a big mess! Shaking tables are used to separate bottles and cans from the paper. Now the steel is easy to seperate, you just use a large electromagnet. A camera or infra red lasers are use to scan and seperate the plastics and glass. The aluminium is separated using eddy currents, which not only uses a lot of power, it isn't 100% effective and that means the remaining cans have to be separated by hand. So now when you consider the logistics of all of this, the manpower, the diesel used by the lorries, the time, the energy used by the seperating machines and the cost of buying and maintaining the machines and lorries, it all adds up to a lot of money, and guess who foots the bill, well it's you, John Q tax payer, that's who. The system is like this because of the sheer volume of rubbish that the country produces. The separating machines are massive, hugely complicated and extremely expensive. That means there are only a few in the country. Doesn't seem like such a good idea throwing everything in one bin now, does it?

So what can I do about it?

Well, in an ideal world you would have 5 different bins for the different recycleable materials, but this isn't practical as your local authority would have to send 5 different lorries to pick up the rubbish, which would cost an arm and a leg! The obvious answer is not to put everything in one bin, separate the different materials and get someone to pick them up! Who, I hear you ask? Well that's what this website is all about! You can read about our goals on the About Us page.

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