Although aluminum cans are easy to collect and recycle, many people still throw them away. American consumers recycled just 50.7 percent of the cans they bought, as reported by the Environmental Protection Agency. In addition to reducing energy use and emissions, recycling aluminum cans also reduces waste that is sent to landfills. The important step you can take to protect the environment is to recycle your cans.
Aluminum is often thought of as a cheap and plentiful metal, but 130 years ago it was rare and expensive. “Chemical Principles” states that refining aluminum from bauxite was so expensive that the Washington Monument was given an aluminum tip to symbolize its value. An aluminum refinery from bauxite was invented in 1886 by Charles Martin Hall. Today, it still exists. While the Hall process is convenient, it consumes a significant amount of energy. Recycling only one can of aluminum can saves the energy needed to completely power a television for three hours, according to the Aluminum Association, a trade association for the aluminum industry.
Graphite electrodes are immersed in molten aluminium oxide, or Al2O3, for the Hall process. Graphite electrodes react with the oxygen in molten alumina to generate carbon dioxide. However, even though aluminum is isolated in this process, the amount of carbon dioxide produced per ton of aluminum generated is substantial. Considering the CO2 produced by the refinement of fresh aluminum from bauxite, recycling aluminum emits 5 percent less than cutting fresh aluminum.
Americans discarded roughly 3.4 million tons of aluminum — about 1.4 percent of the waste stream. Recycling aluminum has the added benefit of lowering manufacturing costs. Aluminum production requires the extraction of bauxite ore, and mining has environmental implications as well. As a result, the vegetation at the mine site is destroyed in the process of strip mining bauxite.
Aluminum is a valuable commodity, so most recycling centers will accept your used cans. It is possible to recycle aluminum indefinitely, and the number of times it can be recycled is not limited. Consequently, this property of aluminum makes it extraordinarily valuable as scrap, according to the Aluminum Association. In comparison to any other metal, aluminum is the most cost-effective metal to recycle. Aluminum is an easy material to recycle, so the product can find a wide market.