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Aluminum: The most recycled consumer byproduct

Most Americans don’t think twice when reaching for cold can of their favorite beverage. But before the late 50’s, most beverages either came from the local soda fountain or in a glass bottle. Coors Brewing Company pioneered the use of aluminum cans for beverages in 1959. This change started an industry storm. In terms of economics, aluminum cans are the most sustainable and cost effective beverage package, as aluminum is lighter than glass and infinitely recyclable. Aluminum also bests glass in terms of versatility, as it provides a superior metal canvas to print on. But perhaps, most importantly, for producers, aluminum effectively protects the flavor and integrity of your favorite cold beverages because it sheilds the product from light.

While aluminum cans didn’t hit the mainstream until the late nineteen fifties, recycling aluminum was no new idea or practice. Major manufacturers have been doing it since the early 1900’s and was relied upon heavily during World War II. It wasn’t until the 1960’s when the use of aluminum cans became popular in beverage production that aluminum can recycling came to the forefront of the American conscience.

Aluminum recycling is the process by which scrap aluminum can be reused in products after its initial production. The process involves simply re-melting the metal, which is far less expensive and energy-intensive than creating new aluminum through the electrolysis of aluminum oxide (Al2O3), which must first be mined from bauxite ore and then refined. Recycling scrap aluminum requires only 5% of the energy used to make new aluminum. For this reason, approximately 31% of all aluminum produced in the United States comes from recycled scrap. Used beverage containers are the largest component of processed aluminum scrap.

In the world of recycling, aluminum cans, are by far, the most recycled product, specifically, most recycled beverage container. The average aluminum can contains 70% recycled metal. In fact, a recycled aluminum can becomes a new can in less than two months! Americans recycle 120,000 aluminum cans every minute, almost 535 billion since 1972. That’s enough to reach to the moon and back 85 times! The best part about aluminum is that there is no limit to how many times it can be recycled.

Another reason aluminum cans are so popular for beverage manufacturers to use, is because of its light weight and strength. An empty aluminum can weighs around a half ounce. When they were first introduced into production, they weighed 3 ounces. Both weights are lighter than their glass counterpart. Because of this reduction in weight, aluminum can manufacturers are able to get 6 times more product out of the same amount of aluminum. Aluminum cans are also easy to stack, which provides storage and shipping efficiencies and limits overall transportation carbon emissions through logistics and supply chains.

Sources for recycled aluminum include aircraft, automobiles, bicycles, boats, computers, cookware, gutters, siding, wire, and many other products that need a strong lightweight material, or a material with high thermal conductivity. As recycling does not affect the element, aluminum can be recycled indefinitely and still be used to produce any product for which new aluminum could be used.

For more recycling tips and information on how Millennium Waste can help you lead a "greener ,"lifestyle, stay tuned to our news feed.

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Keeping the Community Clean

Millennium Waste Incorporated is committed to the growth and well being of the Quad Cities area. That’s why it’s so important to us to contribute to community events and activities. As proud members of the cities we serve, we are dedicated to youth involvement and keeping Betterndorf, Davenport, East Moline, Moline, Rock Island and all of our communities clean.

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