August 03, 2020
It's estimated that around 180 billion aluminum cans are used every year throughout the world. With that much aluminum being used, it's important that it all gets recycled for future use. While only twenty percent of waste in the United Arab Emirates is recycled each year, that number is steadily growing.
Perhaps one reason why most people still don't recycle is that they don't understand how it all works. For many, you just throw a can in either a garbage can or a recycle bin and then just forget about it.
So, how are aluminum cans recycled? And how can knowing the answer to this question help make us better recyclers? Continue reading and we'll walk you through everything you need to know.
Aluminum is one of the most versatile products on the planet. It's extremely flexible and lightweight. However, it's also incredibly strong when combined with other metals such as copper, silicon, magnesium, and molybdenum.
Aluminum is also non-magnetic and has high thermal conductivity. Plus, it's resistant to corrosion too. This material can be easily machined, welded, alloyed, cast, bent, and tapered.
And perhaps most importantly, it doesn't degrade with reuse.
The recycling process for aluminum cans is extremely efficient. Only a small amount of energy that's put into making fresh supplies of aluminum is needed to recycle the same amount. And since aluminum can always be reused, there's no loss of quality after the recycling process is completed.
While it might take a lot of power to make aluminum, once aluminum oxide is stripped of its oxygen atoms, metallic aluminum becomes incredibly stable. This means it can be melted down and reused again and again.
Let's look at how the recycling process works below.
The materials that have been placed in recycling bins and other receptacles are taken away. They're transported to either recovery facilities or waste transfer stations for sorting. Magnets are sometimes used in order to separate the different metals.
Because aluminum is not magnetic, it gets left behind.
From this point, more sorting is done. Every scrap of paper, every piece of plastic, and everything else that isn't aluminum will have to be removed.
After they're taken to reprocessing plants, the aluminum is shredded or cut into small pieces. This is to reduce its volume. Then, by using chemical and mechanical processes, the surfaces of the pieces of aluminum are thoroughly cleaned.
This will prepare them for melting.
Sometimes, whole cans are crushed together to make them easier to transport.
The aluminum is loaded in bales into high-capacity, high-temperature furnaces. It's then melted down at temperatures that can reach up to 750 degrees Celsius.
In order to purify the molten metal, different waste products that are formed during the melting process are removed. This is done mechanically sometimes. Other times, it's done by using nitrogen gas and chlorine.
By adding metals like zinc, silicon, copper, or magnesium to the molten mixture, aluminum alloys can be created. The formula for the alloy is chosen based on the planned uses of the reprocessed aluminum.
The molten mixture is poured out and formed into ingots. An ingot is essentially a big block, made out of aluminum in this case. This makes it easier to transport.
The ingots are shipped to manufacturing or aluminum processing plants in order to be turned into new aluminum products. While the aluminum recycling process can be seen as fairly straightforward and simple, it's also an extremely efficient one.
There are several things that you can do in order to become involved in the recycling of aluminum cans. First off, you can partake in the Can Collection Campaign. This is an event hosted in the United Arab Emirates by the Emirates Environmental Group.
In order to participate, you just have to collect as many used aluminum cans as possible and deposit them at a designated location. Last year, over 5,000 kg of aluminum cans were deposited for recycling.
That same environmental group also hosts the Clean Up UAE event every year. Groups from all sectors of life come to take part, including individuals, government bodies, educational institutions, and corporations. They go to places like beaches and other natural environments and pick up garbage that's washed to shore or has been left on the ground.
Much of the refuse that's collected can then be recycled or reused in some way.
If you want to be even more active, you can work to educate and inform your fellow neighbors about the dangers of environmental damage. When we dump waste into the ocean, we harm all of the creatures that live there and can ruin the quality of the water as well. This can eventually lead to problems for people who rely on these fish and the environment in order to survive.
The extreme heat in the UAE can also lead to trash breaking down into smaller pieces which can then integrate with the sand. By educating your friends and family, and picking up trash and recycling when you can, you can help to make the world a better place.
Hopefully, after reading the above, you now feel that you have a pretty good answer to the question: "how are aluminum cans recycled?" And by learning how the recycling process works, you can have more appreciation for the people in your community who work at these plants and are helping to make the world a cleaner place.
Plus, knowing this information will hopefully remind you to recycle the next time you have a tasty beverage in a can. Make sure to inform your friends and family too so that they can become more active recyclers in the community as well.
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