ALUMINIUM? WHAT'S THE DEAL?
The main source of aluminium is bauxite, first found in 1821 in a
French village of Les Baux. It
takes between five and ten tonnes of bauxite to produce one
tonne of aluminium (depending on the grade of the ore and the
efficiency of the plant). World
primary production of aluminium was 20.5 million metric tonnes
in 2001. World reserves of bauxite are currently estimated to be
around 30 million tonnes. Raw material costs are approximately
50% of the cost of finished aluminium.
As far as energy is
concerned, the smelting process takes 14,000 to 14,500 KWH per
ton. Recycling aluminium uses only 5% of the power needed to make aluminium from raw materials. In other words, 20 cans
made from recycled aluminium use the same power as just 1 can made from new aluminium!
Recycling 1 kg of aluminium saves 8 kg of bauxite, 4 kg of chemical products and 14 Kilowatts of electricity.
SO, HOW ARE WE DOING IN THE UK?
In 2000 the UK consumed 5 billion aluminium drinks cans, of
which 42% were recycled. This sounds impressive until you
compare it to rates of 91% in Switzerland and Finland. There would be 12 million less full dustbins each year in the UK if all aluminium drinks cans were recycled!
In Ireland, where 250 million cans are used every year, only
20% are recycled.
NOTE ON STEEL RECYCLING
The UK recycles less steel than Australia (43%), Korea (47%),
(59%), South Africa (63%) and Japan (86%), despite needing to
recycle 50% of all metals by 2008 in order to meet new European
can exchange your aluminium cans for cash at over 600 "cash
for cans" centres or mobile van sites across the UK, paying
between 35p and 45p per kilo (that's approximately 50 to 60 cans). It
may not sound like very much for your bag full of crushed cans,
but in 2000 we threw 3 billion drinks cans into landfill sites -
they would have been worth £22.5 million if exchanged for cash!
Just think how much your local schools or charities could raise
if they had a "can drive". As a general rule, 50,000
cans weigh one tonne and, if you crush them, they'll take up
about four cubic metres. You can find your nearest
"Cash for Cans" centre via the Alupro
Overall, nearly 60% of the
aluminium used in the UK has been previously recycled.
DO I TELL IF MY CAN IS ALUMINIUM?
If your can isn't aluminium then it will be tin-plated steel
(25% of all drinks cans in the UK are made of this), so the
easiest test is to apply a magnet to the side of the can: if it
sticks then the can is steel, if it doesn't then it's aluminium.
Also, the aluminium cans will have a shiny bottom and may carry
the "alu" mark (see left).
I RECYCLE ANY OTHER FORMS OF ALUMINIUM?
You sure can. Cooking foil, foil milk bottle tops, baking and
freezing trays are all good sources of aluminium which are used
by the automotive industry for casting engine blocks, cylinder
heads, etc. Keep them separate from your cans though, as they
are made of a different aluminium alloy.
THE YANKS ARE
BEATING THE BRITS!
the USA they produced 100 billion cans in 2001 and had an
amazing 55% recycling rate (according to the Aluminium