See a drinks can, pick it up, put it in a recycling tub!
The recycling process saves up to 95% of the energy and associated greenhouse gas emissions compared with making cans from raw materials. What’s more, the empty drinks can you recycle today could be back on sale, as another can, in just 60 days.
The alternative is to allow that discarded can to be smothered by layers of mud and undergrowth, or picked up by the council and land-filled. To make a new can, 16g of aluminium must be smelted from up to 80g of raw bauxite, mined in countries such as Jamaica, West Africa, Australia and South America.
From bauxite to beverage
Aluminium is not a scarce resource. In fact it is the most plentiful metal on earth, accounting for 8% of the earth’s crust. It is naturally found in the form of bauxite, an ore containing aluminum oxide, or alumina.
But the smelting process for raw bauxite is very energy intensive, requiring on average 15kWh of electricity to produce one kilogramme of aluminium. In 2010, more than 3% of the world’s entire electrical supply went to extraction of aluminium. This explains why aluminium smelting often relies on “cheap” energy contracts linked to nuclear power, such as between Anglesey Aluminium and Wylfa nuclear power station.
Don’t let it go to waste
Recycling rates for aluminium have increased significantly since the introduction of measures like doorstep recycling. But 3 billion (that’s 3,000,000,000) aluminium drinks cans are still being lost or land-filled every year in the UK.
That is over 46,000 tonnes of aluminium, wasting 400,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions and 646,000MWh of electricity per year.
On a smaller scale recycling 1 aluminium can saves approximately 0.25kWh, ie:
- enough energy to boil water for 14 cups of tea
- the same energy as driving 1/2 mile (in a car that does 50mpg)
- enough energy to watch a modern flat screen television for 5 hours.
So… See a can ‘n’ pick it up, leccy saved for 14 cups!