This is a light-weight strong metal that doesn't rust. It has a very high scrap value and can be recycled repeatedly without losing quality. In the latter part of 1990, aluminum production in industrialized countries reached a record 39650 tons a day. The raw material is bauxite ore found in Brazil (2800 million tons equivalent), Guinea (5600 mte), Jamaica (2000mte) and India (1000mte). Over three billion tons of the world's bauxite reserves are in developing countries. It takes four tons of bauxite to make three tons of alumina, the oxide of aluminum. When this is reduced to pure aluminum, the yield is one ton. It is this reduction process that makes aluminum production so energy-intensive.

Globally 22 million tons of aluminum is used every year- approximately 2.5% for packaging. Yet the high value of scrap aluminum and its energy-intensive nature make it an inappropriate material for disposable packaging. Recycling more aluminum is crucial; its production is environmentally destructive. Over 60% of the world's aluminum supply is produced using hydroelectric power. While this energy source does not produce large quantities of greenhouse gases, it does require large areas of land to be flooded, often destroying indigenous people's homelands. Generally, hydroelectric schemes are much more energy-efficient than coal-fired plants; as a result the aluminum industry is a permanent customer for the baseload production of hydropower stations.

Producing aluminum requires 14 kilowatt hours of electricity for smelting each kilo of aluminum from alumina. A kilo of aluminum is equivalent to 50 drink cans. Scrap aluminum in developing countries is never wasted, in Egypt it is remelted using waste oil, and made into saucepans and kitchen utensils.

Reuse and recycle

Foil lined gift boxes and presentation packs are classic examples of the over-packaging that fills so many dustbins/ garbage bins. The mixture of materials i.e. paper, plastic and aluminum often bonded together, makes recycling impossible.Aluminium can be remelted and used.

Aluminum cans

Globally, 50% of aluminum cans are collected for recycling, so 50% are thrown away. It is estimated that the US throws away enough aluminum every three months to completely rebuild their commercial airfleet.

Four out of every five drink cans in the world are made entirely from aluminum. In the US over 90% are aluminum; in Europe only 50 % are pure aluminum, the rest are steel, or mixtures of both metals The largest recyclers are Sweden (85%); Canada (63%); Australia (63%); US (6%) and Japan (42%). The UK recycling rate rose to 16% in mid 1992. New reprocessing plants in mid 1992. New reprocessing plants are coming on stream in the UK, US and France. Cans are being designed with a thinner wall a process known as lightweighting. It is also the industry's response to the challenge from plastic packaging, which is often used as an aluminum substitute.

Aluminum, being not magnetic makes sorting easier. Aluminum fetches a much higher scrap price than steel. Comalco, Australia, operates a can recycling program in schools

Aluminum foil

Foil represents nearly 40% of the UK usage of aluminum in packaging, including beverage cans. Yet 50000 tons of aluminum foil packaging is thrown away each year in the UK. 72% is single-material and collectable for recycling. This includes foil containers for convenience meals, pies and pastries, household wrapping and cooking foil, milk bottle tops and chocolate foil. The majority comes from households rather than from the catering industry. The remaining percentage of foil is incorporated into multi-layer laminates, for example cartons, such as those used for milk or washing detergents.

Another large user is the cigarette and tobacco industry, consuming 29000 tons of aluminum foil every year-or 38% of the total domestic foil consumption.


Steel is collected. It is then taken to our Materials Recovery Facility, where it is separated from other recyclable materials under a large rolling magnet and compressed into large bricks.. The steel cans are sent to companies like BHP who recycle the steel into railway tracks, cars and many other products. The tin cans are then shredded to remove all food particles and paper labels. The steel is then crunched further into smaller thin steel sheets that look like crumpled paper. Each of these thin steel sheets are much thicker than the original pieces. The thin steel sheets then go through a detinning stage, this means that each of these sheets are placed in a mesh basket and immersed into an alkaline bath. With the steel sheets in the alkaline bath, the tin coating is removed by transmitting electric currents . This tin is placed in cathode where it is later re-used. Remaining is detinned steel which is a good quality steel suitable to be melted and formed into new steel. There is no limit to how many times we can recycle steel.

How to prepare steel for recycling?

  1. Once you have finished feeding the dog, or eating your baked beans rinse out the can to remove any remaining scraps.
  2. Aerosol cans like hair spray or fly repellent can also be recycled. When finished don't squash the can, simply take off the plastic lid and place the aerosol can with other steel products to be recycled.
  3. Paint cans are recyclable all you need to do is remove all the liquid paint(dry paint is fine), remember do not pour the paint down the sink or drain because this will only further damage our environment.

The facts about steel?

Steel cans comprise of 2-3% of our domestic waste. Each Australian will dispose 7kg of steel each year. Australia produces 2.5 million tonnes of recycled steel every year.

Using steel can be fun