Renewal and regeneration are pretty natural things. We see it in all walks of life, from the changing of the seasons to mega-popular sci-fi TV show Doctor Who. And, of course, chances are you’ve got some examples of this in your kitchen cabinets or pantry. Aluminum cans are one of the world’s most recycled metals thanks to its ability to melt down and reform with nearly zero loss in materials. So what exactly happens in the life of that can of Sprite sitting in your pantry?

Step 1. At a manufacturing plant, cans are filled and pressurized with your favorite beverage before shipped out to store shelves.

Step 2. A thirsty person gets the can, either from the grocery store or ordered out at a restaurant.

Step 3. The can, now empty, gets put in with other recycling. It’s also most likely crushed down to maximize space and capacity.

Step 4. Recycling is picked up by the local waste management company, where it’s then delivered to a scrapyard to be scrapped and baled.

Step 5. The bales of aluminum are purchased by a processing company.

Step 6. To recycle the aluminum, the bales are melted down, then cast into new sheets. The sheets are then formed into new cans and shipped to manufacturing plants.

Step 7. Now an empty, clean piece of metal, the aluminum can is ready to be filled and pressurized again – now living its second, third, or possibly even eleventh lifetime.

That’s what makes aluminum cans such a valuable property – and why you can get such a good price for it at local recycling centers. Rather than add waste to the planet, aluminum recycling can become a self-contained system that gives us what we want without ever impacting the planet. And, from an economic point of view, it invests in green jobs thanks to the collection and processing parts of the recycling process. In short, everyone wins – who knew such a little piece of metal could be so fantastic?