Beverages packaged in aluminum cans are purchased by millions of consumers around the world each day. They pop the top, hear the familiar hiss and down their favorite drink. But, then what? Where does the can go after you toss it into the recycling bin?
- Two out of every three cans produced in the United States begin the recycling process at local recycling centers, community drop-off sites, charity collection sites, reverse vending machines or curbside pick-up spots.
- Aluminum cans from these sources are then gathered at large, regional scrap processing companies. There, they condense the cans into dense, 30-pound briquettes or 1,200-pound bales and ship them to aluminum companies for melting.
- At the aluminum companies, the condensed cans are shredded, crushed and stripped of their inside and outside decorations through a burning process. Then, the potato chip-sized pieces of aluminum are loaded into melting furnaces, where the recycled metal is blended with new, virgin aluminum.
- The molten aluminum is then poured into 25-foot long ingots that weigh over 30,000 pounds. The ingots are fed into rolling mills that reduce the thickness of the metal from 20 inches to sheets one-hundredth of an inch thick.
- This metal is then coiled and shipped to can makers, who produce can bodies (the side of a can is the same thickness as a human hair!) and lids. They, in turn, deliver cans to beverage companies for filling.
- The new cans (stocked with your favorite canned beverages, of course) are ready to return to store shelves in as little as 60 days, only to go through the entire recycling process again!