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Through advances in recycling technology, you have more options than ever. And it’s a good thing because we need to conserve as much of our resources as possible. Do you think of your empty soda cans and food cans as a natural resource? 7 million tons of aluminum each year. Of that, about 50 percent is recycled.
Apart from the economic impact, the environmental savings of recycling metal are enormous. An aluminum can is able to be returned to the shelf, as a new can, as quickly as 60 days after it’s put into your recycling container. Coast-to-coast, there are about 10,000 locations that buy aluminum, making it easy for Americans to redeem their used beverage cans for cash. Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to run a television for three hours.
The can is transported to a processing facility. A giant magnet lifts out cans that are made of metals such steel. Since aluminum cans aren’t magnetic, they drop down to a conveyor belt and are gathered. The aluminum is shredded, washed and turned into aluminum chips. The chips are melted in a large furnace.
The melted aluminum is poured into molds called “ingots. The ingots are taken to a factory where they’re melted into rolls of thin, flat sheets. From the sheets, manufacturers make new products, including new beverage cans, pie pans, license plate frames, and aluminum foil. Beverage companies fill the cans and deliver them to grocery stores for customers to purchase.
Customers take used cans to a recycling center and the process starts all over again. Today, we recycle the foil to conserve energy and protect the environment – two other patriotic causes. There are thousands of products made from aluminum. From food wrap to disposable cookware, to the disposable burner bibs you use to keep your stovetop clean, the list goes on and on. Aluminum can be recycled almost infinitely.
The process involves simply re-melting the metal, a process far less costly and energy-intensive than mining the minerals necessary to create new aluminum. For example, Americans discarded 460,000 tons of foil in 2010. However, Americans are far more likely to recycle aluminum soda cans than aluminum foil. Household Hints Unlike aluminum cans, foil may have food particles attached, making it harder for recycling facilities to accept. But foil is easy to wipe clean. So reuse it as much as you can, and clean it off before putting it in the recycling bin.
You’ll be supporting a process that uses five percent less energy than the traditional aluminum foil manufacturing process. Most people call them “tin cans,” but the containers your green beans come in are mostly made of steel. The term “tin” comes from the fact that these cans have a micro-thin coating of tin inside, to protect the flavor and prevent the can from corroding. How can you tell a steel or tin can from an aluminum one? See if a magnet attaches to it. Steel is magnetic, and aluminum is not.
Americans use about 100 million steel cans every day. Where does this recycled steel come from? That’s enough energy to power 18 million homes. They may be mixed with new steel. Steel, tin, and the California Gold Rush. When you think of the California Gold Rush of the mid-1800s, your first thought may not be of canned goods.