Possibly, the only man-made item on Earth that is more ubiquitous than plastic bags would be aluminum cans. Aluminum cans, however, are actually good for the environment and do not endanger marine life like plastic bags. They are, at least if people like you and me take the time to recycle them.
What are the benefits of recycling aluminum? Here’s an answer to that question: Aluminum recycling offers many environmental, economic, and community benefits; it saves energy, time, money, and precious natural resources; and it generates jobs and helps pay for community services that benefit millions of people.
Every year in the United States, more than 100 billion aluminum cans are sold, but fewer than half are recycled. The number of aluminum cans incinerated or sent to landfills is similar in other countries as well.
There are about 1.5 million tons of aluminum cans wasted worldwide every year. It is necessary to replace all of those trashed cans with new ones made from virgin materials, which wastes energy and causes extensive environmental damage.
Globally, the aluminum industry emits millions of tons of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, which contribute to global warming. Aluminum cans make up only 1.4% of a ton of garbage by weight, but according to the Container Recycling Institute, they are responsible for 14.1% of the greenhouse gas emissions from replacing garbage with new products made from virgin materials.
In addition to sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, aluminum smelting also produces these two toxic gases, which contribute to smog and acid rain.
To produce new aluminum cans to replace those that cannot be recycled, five tons of bauxite ore must first be mined, crushed, washed, and refined into alumina before they can be smelted. A few tons of caustic mud are created during that process, which can contaminate both surface water and groundwater, damaging the health of people and animals.
There is no limit to the number of times aluminum can be recycled. It’s for this reason that aluminum recycling is so beneficial to the environment. Metals such as aluminum can be recycled again and again without causing material loss.
Today, recycling aluminum is cheaper, faster, and more efficient than ever before. The most recyclable (and valuable) material out there is aluminum, which is 100% recyclable. In just 60 days, the aluminum can you tossed into your recycling bin will be recycled completely and back on the store shelves.
In the United States and around the world, a little less than half of all aluminum cans are recycled and turned into new aluminum cans and other products. The Swiss, the Norwegians, the Finns, and the Germans all recycle more than 90% of their aluminum beverage containers.
Recycling aluminum may be increasing every year, but there is still a lot more that can be done. American’s throw away so much aluminum that we could rebuild the entire commercial aircraft fleet in the United States from scratch every three months according to the Environmental Defense Fund. There is a lot of aluminum thrown away.
More than half of all aluminum cans produced and sold worldwide are thrown away and never recycled, so they need to be replaced with new aluminum cans made from virgin materials.