In America, 1,500 aluminum cans are recycled every second
For the recycling novice -- in other words, almost all of us -- aluminum cans are as close to perfect ast you can get: No matter how many of them you have, they're still light enough to carry; you don't need any fancy storage containers -- you can even pile them into a paper bag. And you don't have to hunt very far to find someplace to take them -- cans are worth so much that there's always someone around who collects them.
The secret is that it's a lot cheaper to recycle aluminum cans than it is to make them out of new metal. So years ago, the aluminum industry set up collection services, and they've been paying top dollar to get cans back ever since.
So if you're wondering where to start recycling, put aluminum cans at the top of your list.
- Aluminum was worth more than gold when it was discovered. It was first used to make a rattle for Napoleon's son.
- In 1989, Americans used 80 billion aluminum cans. That's the equivalent of about 16 cans for every person on the planet.
- We recycled a record 60% of them that same year.
- Making cans from recycled cuts related air pollution (for example, sulfur dioxides, which create acid rain) by 95%.
- Recycling aluminum saves 95% of the energy used to make the material from scratch. That means you can make 20 cans out of recycled material with the same energy it takes to make one can out of new material
- Americans throw away enough aluminum every three months to rebuild our entire commercial air fleet.
Simple Things To Do
- Find a Place to Take Them
- Virtually all recycling programs accept aluminum cans. But not everyone takes other types of aluminum (foil and scrap). Call recycling centers in your area for more details.
- If you're having trouble finding a recycling center, try the toll-free Reynolds Aluminum hotline (no longer available). If there's a Reynolds recycling center in your area, they'll tell you where it is.
- Check phone listings under "Scrap Metal." Many scrap dealers aren't interested in small loads, but aluminum is valuable -- so they may take it.
- Contact your state recycling office. They may have a list of aluminum recyclers in the state.
- Crushing cans makes storing and transporting them easier. But before recycling, check with your recyclre to find out if crushing them is okay. In some states with deposit laws, recyclers prefer to get the cans intact; they need to see the brand and the name of the factory the can came from.
- In most places, it's not necessary to rinse cans... but a large batch of unwashed cans may attract bees and ants.
- Aluminum foil, pie plates, TV dinner trays, etc. are all reusable and recyclable. Lightly rinse them off first if they're dirty (you don't have to waste water--use dishwater).
- Some places request that you keep foil and cans separate. Check with your local recycling center.
- Containers aren't the only source of aluminum scrap. Other common items include window frames, screen doors and lawn furniture.
- Is your scrap aluminum? Check it with a magnet; aluminum isn't magnetic. Check small pieces like screws, rivets, etc.
- Remove everything that's not aluminum; anything extra will make recycling difficult.
For More Information
"Aluminum Recycling: America's Environmental Success Story."
The Aluminum Association, 900 19th St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20006. (202) 862-5100.
by The Earth Works Group
Don't Can It, p. 32
The Recycler's Handbook, 1990
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