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  Solid Waste


Know How an Aluminum Can is Recycled

Beverages packaged in aluminum cans are purchased by millions of consumers around the world each day.  The pop the top, hear that familiar hiss and down their favorite drink.  You didn't think you were the only one, did you?

But, then what?  Where does that can go, after you toss it into the nearest recycling bin?

  1. Two out of every three cans produced in the United States begin the recycling process either at Aluminum Ingot - photo provided by ARCOlocal recycling centers, community drop-off sites, charity collection sites, reverse vending machines or curbside pick-up spots.
  2. Aluminum cans from these sources are then gathered at large, regional scrap processing companies.  There, they condense the cans into highly dense, 30-pound briquettes or bales and ship them off to aluminum companies for melting.
  3. At the aluminum companies, the condensed cans are shredded, crushed and stripped of their inside and outside decorations via a burning process.  Then, the potato chip-sized pieces of aluminum are loaded into melting furnaces, where the recycled metal is blended with new, virgin aluminum.
  4. The molten aluminum is then poured into 25-foot long ingots that weigh over 30,000 pounds.  The ingots are fed into rolling mills that reduce the thickness of the metal from 20-plus inches to sheet that is about 10/1,000 of an inch thick. Aluminum Coils - photo provided by ARCO
  5. This metal is then coiled and shipped to can makers, who produce can bodies (the side of a can is the same thickness as a human hair!) and lids.  They, in turn, deliver cans to beverage companies for filling. 
  6. The new cans (stocked with your favorite canned beverages, of course) are then ready to return to store shelves in as little as 60 days, only to go through the entire recycling process again!