Recycling aluminum. What’s the big deal? Although new people are opting to recycle their aluminum products every day, still more choose to simply throw these products in with the rest of their trash. Doing this a great disservice to yourself and the environment; not only do many states in the U.S pay you a return for recycling your aluminum cans, but the simple act of recycling aluminum products reduces your consumption footprint by over 95% – in other words, the energy it takes to reuse an aluminum can is 5% that of smelting and producing a new one. More on that later- first, let’s discuss what effects the impact of NOT recycling aluminum can have on the environment, and the economy.
ENVIRONMENTAL DETRIMENTS of not recycling aluminum
Every year in the United States, around 100 billion aluminum cans are manufactured and sold, but less than half of those cans make it to the recycling bin. This number is consistent among developed countries (with few exceptions; Brazil for example recycles around 98% of its aluminum cans.) Cans that are not recycled are either incinerated, which creates harmful emissions, or find themselves in landfills, where it will take them 200-500 years to decompose. This is no small amount of aluminum- even conservative estimates dictate that we waste 1.5 million tons of aluminum every year. That’s 1.5 million tons of aluminum cans that must be made anew from virgin materials, rather than from recycled aluminum materials.
And what does creating new aluminum entail? According to the Container Recycling Institute, while aluminum cans only make up 1.4 percent of any given ton of garbage, they account for 14 percent of the harmful emissions when it comes to replacing these wasted materials with new ones.
That includes all of the other aspects of creating aluminum, including strip mining for bauxite ore and smelting it down into a usable form.
ENVIRONMENTAL BENEFITS of recycling aluminum
Simply put, the benefits of recycling aluminum (and any recyclable material) are that it greatly conserves energy, conserves our natural resources and puts them back to use, and reduces water and air pollution. Aluminum is infinitely recyclable, meaning it can be recycled over and over with no limit. Since 1884, billons of metric tons of aluminum have been produced, and roughly 74% of that is still in use due to its recyclability.
Aluminum is unparalleled when it comes to retrieving usable material and creating new products from it. In fact, all aspects of an aluminum made product can be reused; and the simple act of tossing your aluminum can in the recycling bin conserves 95% of the energy it takes to create a new one. Aluminum is the most used material in creation of new products, so even a small percentage increase of people recycling will pay off in dividends when it comes to our future. For every 1-ton of aluminum recycled, the planet is spared 9 tons of CO2 emissions.
A little truly goes a long way, and the energy saved from this recycled material can be better used to power our lives in an efficient way.
NOT JUST CANS: WHAT ELSE YOU CAN RECYCLE