Is Aluminum Recyclable? Facts & FAQ
Aluminum is one of the most recycled materials in the world, and for a good reason. Aluminum is extremely and easily recycled. You can feel good about throwing your aluminum can into the nearest blue recycling bin because that is what they were designed for. Not only is aluminum recyclable, but it is also one of the most efficient and successful materials to have a dedicated recycling process assigned to it.
So, if you were ever wondering whether you should throw away your aluminum can or bottle or recycle it, the answer should always be to recycle. The numbers behind aluminum recycling are positive, if not downright encouraging. But why is aluminum so recyclable, and where does all of that aluminum go after you put it in the can?
Is Aluminum Infinitely Recyclable?
The Aluminum Association, a group representing the interests of the aluminum industry in the United States, claims that aluminum is infinitely recyclable. The material responds extremely well to recycling efforts, and if handled properly, the material can be used and reused over and over again. The Aluminum Association says that this cycle of use, recycling, and reuse can happen a nearly infinite number of times.
But is this claim true? Mostly. Recycled aluminum only uses 5% of the total energy that it takes to create the same amount of new aluminum. That means recycling aluminum saves 95% of the energy it would take to reproduce the same product again. It also saves on the material itself. To back this up, the organization says that nearly 75% of all aluminum produced in the United States in recent years is still in the market due to durability or recycling.
However, nothing is truly infinite. Recycling aluminum still requires dedicated facilities and energy to operate. These facilities, while efficient, still use time, money, and effort. That means that while in theory, aluminum can be recycled an infinite number of times, in reality, it is constrained by money, time, energy, and effort like everything else.
Still, aluminum is one of the most recycled materials on Earth, and the numbers back up people’s decisions to recycle aluminum on a daily basis.
How Is Aluminum Properly Disposed Of?
The best way to dispose of aluminum is to recycle it. There is no benefit to throwing aluminum away in the trash. Even a single soda can is able to be recycled and repurposed into another soda can. Throwing aluminum away is a complete waste, while recycling it gives it new life.
Be sure to check to see if your local trash haulers take aluminum separately or in mixed containers. Some haulers only take paper, aluminum, and glass if they are adequately separated and put into their own containers. As long as you are putting your aluminum into proper bins, then it will be recycled appropriately.
Why Is Aluminum So Recyclable?
Aluminum is so recyclable because it is extremely simple to get it into a state where it can be reused. Unlike other materials like glass, plastic, and paper, aluminum has a straightforward recycling process. Aluminum is collected and smashed into cubes. The cubes make the aluminum easier to transport. The metal is then shipped to a special facility that melts the aluminum down and presses it into large sheets. These large thin sheets of aluminum can be easily turned back into a number of heavily used materials like cans or bottles. Aluminum requires very little cleaning and is very easy to separate from other improperly recycled materials or trash.
The efficiency and economics of aluminum recycling make it a very appealing process. It is so appealing, in fact, that many companies like Pepsi, Coke, and Apple are striving to use more aluminum in their products to try to cut down on the number of plastics used. Plastics are not as easily recyclable and have a 92% waste rate as opposed to aluminum’s 25% waste rate. In the future, these companies want to use more aluminum in things like cans, bottles, and phone bodies than they have in the past to boost recycling and cut down on waste.
Aluminum is extremely recyclable. In fact, it is one of the most recyclable and recycled materials on Earth. Everyone can feel good about recycling the aluminum they use in their lives because there is a very good chance it gets repurposed into something completely new. Products that use recycled materials cut down on overall energy and material use, which is good for the long-term health of the economy and the planet.
See also: 13 Recycling Myths and Misconceptions
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