Example Of Aluminum Recycling Research Paper

Type of paper: Research Paper

Topic: Aluminium, Recycling, Beverage, United States, Aluminum, World, Energy, Industry

Pages: 10

Words: 2750

Published: 2021/02/24


Metals has played crucial role in the development and improvement of modern and historical society. Metal resources are derived from the earth’s crust or from recycling of the metal discarded after their use in the economy. When the used metals are not efficiently recovered from the economy, people will increase their use of the primary resources and therefore affecting the nature by increasing various metals dispersions in the ecosystem (environmental pollution). Industrial society values the use of metals such as aluminium, because of their useful properties such as strength, (Wernick and N.J. Themelis, 1998).
Among the earth’s crust metals, aluminium is the commonest metallic element. It makes up to 8 percent. In today’s economy, aluminium is the most widely used non-ferrous metal. One of the most significant properties of aluminium is that it can be recycled repeatedly and does not lose its metallic integrity. Aluminium beverage cans recycling is a process of reusing scrap or originally used aluminium products or cans. Waste aluminium cans originate from various domestic uses. For instance, people buy beverages in cans every day; they drink the content and throw the cans away. Most of the cans are made of aluminium because it is light and recyclable. Advantage of recycling aluminium is demonstrated by the daily use of beverage cans where it is possible to sell the can, consumed, recycled and will again be available within the stores in a short time of approximately 60 days. In recent years, aluminium beverage cans are being recycled and used in the manufacture of many other products offering many benefits. For instance, the use of recycled aluminium from beverage cans in building the body of vehicles reduces the total mass of the vehicle thus improving the fuel efficiency as well as reduces emissions. Therefore, continued use of recycled aluminium beverage cans will eventually affect the carbon footprint within the aluminium industry. (Das, Green & Kaufman, 2010). This paper will focus on aluminium beverage cans recycling and its contribution to best waste management processes.

History of Aluminum Recycling

Throughout the human history, recycling has remained a common practice. During pre-industrial era, scrap made of aluminium were collected and melted down for the purposes of perpetual reuse. The primary driver for such kind of recycling was economical advantage offered by recycling the used aluminium instead of acquiring new metal. World wars were caused by the shortages in resources and other major world-changing occurrences encouraged recycling of aluminium and other materials. During the World War II, the governments of all countries that were involved in the war encouraged massive promotion campaigns to urge the citizens to donate aluminium. Donating aluminium as well as other recyclable metals indicated patriotism to ones country and government.
During the Second World War, the United States government asked its people to collect the list of materials that could be useful during the war. Aluminium was among the list of many materials that were listed. Because the Japanese reduced the supply of aluminium during the war, American government organized major efforts of conservation and recycling of aluminium. Cities as well as States were given quotas. Families were also involved in the recycling and conservation of aluminium. There was need for aluminium for the production of aircraft. Children could be asked to bring their old toys for recycling.
There was a drive for children to participate in bringing anything that contained aluminium. These included various beverage cans, toothpaste tubes and many others. These materials were deemed useful to the war. Aluminium scrap drives were exposed to publicity during the war. Every citizen in America felt that everyone needed to do everything possible to support the country at that time. In United States, another big investment in aluminium recycling happened in years of 1970s because of the rising of the energy costs. Only 5 percent of the energy required in virgin production of aluminium is used in aluminium recycling.
During the World War II, families were heavily encouraged to collect the strips of foil in the defense efforts. In many areas in United States, aluminium foil balls were exchanged to acquire a free entry to movie theatres. The United States government sponsored advertisement in radios, posters as well as pamphlets to urge Americans to assist the scrap drives. For instance a radio station in New York (WOR), created a radio show in 1941, and named the show "Aluminium for Defense", (The Aluminium Association, 2015).
Aluminium recycling came to where it is today when people discovered that aluminium does not lose its integrity or strength even after melting and reshaping. The process of recycling aluminium beverage cans started long time during industrial revolution. However, massive aluminium recycling started in 1900s. This massive recycling involved manufactured products that related to war such as in the World War II and the food industries. Many countries became environmentally concerned because of high amount of beverage cans wastes that they produce. These countries started looking for ways and means of becoming more "green." Because of these reasons, approximately 75 percent of all the aluminium that the world has ever produced is still being used today. Many initiatives have come in place and they try to push for aluminium beverage cans recycling in small scale as well as in large scale.
Such initiatives include the “Aluminum for Future Generations” initiative. This is a program fighting for continuous improvement of global aluminium industry. The International Aluminium Institute (IAI) launched the program in 2003. The institute is under the management of International Aluminium Institute. The initiative has voluntary objectives for the improvement around the social, economic as well as environmental conservation across major areas of the life cycle of aluminium. According to the initiative, 26 million tons of aluminium was produced in the year 2008. Out this 10 million tons were used in the manufacture of beverage cans. The primary aims of this initiative were to foster for long term reduction of perfluorocarbon (PFC) emissions. With its efforts, there has been big improvement and the overall impact of this industry is increasing every year.

Recycling of Aluminum Beverage Cans in Our Modern United States

For aluminium beverage cans recycling to be effective, it is important to have a large supply of recyclable aluminium beverage cans scrap. To create such supply, there are important legislation options that should be put in place. First, is mandatory aluminium beverage cans recycling collection, then container/cans deposit legislation and thirdly banning of aluminium beverage cans refuse. The mandatory aluminium collection laws involve setting beverage cans recycling targets for big cities and towns in terms of percentage in various States in America. Cities and towns in United States must aim at a certain percentage of material to be diverted to the waste stream by a particular set date.
The aluminium beverages container deposit policy involves providing a refund to anyone for returning aluminium beverage containers in United States. In this case, the policy is set in such a way that when the consumer purchases such a container with a beverage, a small surcharge is on top of the price of the beverage. The consumer is able to reclaim the surcharge once they return the beverage can/container to a specific collection point. Such programs have proved to be successful and sometimes they have been reported to achieve 80 percent of aluminium beverage cans recycling rate in United States. The third policy of increasing the supply of recyclable aluminium is banning disposal of aluminium beverage cans in landfills. The main aim here is to create viable economy to have efficient disposal of the banned products (beverage cans). Here, authorities must observe care to have enough services to recycle the beverage cans scrap. This is because such bans might lead to illegal dumping of these aluminium beverage cans.
Recycling of aluminium beverage cans is a major consideration in the use of aluminium. Aluminium is originally extracted from bauxite. Mining of bauxite is mainly done in four climate groups. According to the figures provided in 1998 by International Aluminium Institute, Mediterranean region 39 percent, Tropical regions produce 48 percent, Subtropical regions produced 13 percent while Temperate region 0.5 percent. According to U.S. Geological Survey conducted in 2004, the extractable bauxite in the world’s reserve is estimated to be 23bn tons. The world regional distribution of bauxite reserves is shown in the table below.
Source: Bergsdal, Strømman and Hertwich, 2004
In the year 2004, over 5.4 million tons of aluminium was used in the manufacturing of beverage cans in U.S. Currently, the country produces approximately 0.5 million tons of primary aluminium. This shows that without aluminium beverage cans recycling, United States would be required to import both recycled and primary aluminium to meet its requirement. The table below shows the amount of recycled aluminium beverage cans in thousands of tons in United States within the last one month.

Source: International Aluminium Institute, 2015

According to International Aluminium Institute, the global production of aluminium in 2006 was approximately 45.9 million tons. This consisted 11.8 million tons of secondary aluminum and 34 tons of primary aluminum. United States produced 7.82 million tons of primary aluminum with Asia producing the highest of 13 million tons. International Aluminium Institute is association of world’s aluminium producers. The body represents over 60 percent of the world aluminium production. Through International Aluminium Institute the members have continuously demonstrated their commitment to global sustainable development by maintaining responsible production, use as well as recycling of aluminium products. The body has continuously emphasized on the importance of beverage cans recycling because the cans are produced in large number around United States (U.S. Department of Energy, 2007).

Theoretical Background

Most or all of aluminium beverage cans that are bought from various stores end up being thrown in dust bins and they end up being buried in landfills. Therefore, the first step in beverage cans recycling is collecting them in large amount from where they have been thrown by product users. When aluminium cans are collected, they are separated from the municipal waste by means of eddy current separator. Sometimes they are collected directly from dustbins without the need to separate them from other wastes. They are then cut into small and equal sized pieces. The pieces are then cleaned mechanically using chemicals to remove undesired impurities accompanying these beverages cans. They are then blocked so that the molten aluminium is not oxidized back to aluminium oxide. The blocks are then loaded in furnaces where they are heated to a temperature of 750°C to end up with molten aluminium.
The dross is then removed and hydrogen dissolved is degassed. At this point the molten aluminium disassociates hydrogen and other contaminants that could be available. This process is done using the nitrogen gas and chlorine. Chlorine is obtained from hexachloroethane tablets. At this stage samples are collected to be taken to spectroscopic analysis. From there, the final desired product determines the alloy specification. For instance, metals such as copper, manganese, silicon can be added to the high-purity aluminium molten metal to end up with the desired alloy. Otherwise, the furnace is tapped where the molten aluminium is then poured out so that the process may be repeated in the subsequent batch (Boin and Bertram, 2005). Below is a schematic diagram of beverage cans recycling plant.

Source: Handbook of Aluminium, 2006

Key Players in Aluminium Beverage Cans Recycling Industry
Aluminium beverage cans recycling industry has both refiners and smelters. These players treat as well as transform the aluminium waste beverage cans scrap to standardized aluminium. Although refiners and smelters have integral role to play in aluminium recycling industry, they depend on other important chain. These other links are collectors, dismantlers as well as metal merchants and beverage scrap processors. These players deal with collection of the beverage cans and treatment of the scrap aluminium. Aluminium recycling has a well structured market with well established distribution chain. Refiners will supply their product to foundries while remelters will supply extruders as well as rolling mills with wrought alloys. In the rolling mills is where the processing of alloy-specific pieces takes place (European Aluminium Association, n.d.).
Recycling of aluminium beverage cans has not been taken with the level of seriousness that it deserves. Yet, people understand the large amount of beverage cans purchased every day in United States. The approximated reused amount of aluminum beverage cans materials utilized today in United States is only around 30 to 50 percent. Utilization of aluminum assists building activities meet all requirements for green building conditions as outlined in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) regulations. Aluminum is non-corrosive and requires no painting, insignificant support and, not at all like cement, requires no expansion system or cure time. Aluminum can give protection and permits light and outside air into structures. Reinforced combinations can bolster extensive glass structures and sun oriented boards.

Economical Advantages achieved if People are convinced to recycle their Aluminum and the Raw Materials that will be saved

It is possible to recycle aluminium cans forever. Therefore, they can be easily converted into new cans fast and placed back to the stores. The cost incurred in recycling aluminium beverage cans is much less than manufacturing new beverage cans. On the other hand, recycling aluminium beverage cans saves a lot of energy. The country can save roughly 15 barrels of its crude oil by encouraging its people to recycle the aluminium beverage cans that they use daily. According to Aluminium Association, recycling 40 aluminium beverage cans has the energy saving of 20 liters of gasoline. Moreover, convincing people to recycle aluminium will save United States from exhausting the aluminium reserves in the earth’s crust. The money that could be raised through encouraging people to recycle the aluminium cans goes to organizations such as the local schools, the scouts as well as the habitat for humanity. This means that the money obtained from recycling aluminium beverage cans is taken back to the local communities, Morris, 2005).

Use of Recycled Aluminium in Packaging in United States

The customers or the users of recycled aluminium cans are many. For instance, aluminum cans and containers have long been used in the American consumer goods market. Most of our most loved drinks such as coca cola drinks, Pepsi and many others are packed in aluminum cans. Coors spearheaded the utilization of aluminum cans back in 1959. From that time, there has been an enduring development in soft drinks, caffeinated beverages, bottled waters and blend lagers that are all packed in aluminum cans.
These cans are the best beverage packaging and are endlessly recyclable. They cool rapidly, give a better metal surface for printing and advertising, as well as help to secure the flavor and respectability of our most loved drinks. Aluminum foil is additionally another useful packaging material used to pack different foods (Handbook of Aluminium Recycling, 2006).

Economics of Aluminum Beverage Cans Recycling Industry

Although aluminium cans are easily recycled, most of them go to waste. People in United States have not realized the economic advantage of recycling aluminium beverage cans. According to the report by the American Environmental Protection Agency, only 50 percent of total aluminium beverage cans used in America were recycled in the year 2009. Aluminium recycling saves considerable energy for the country. Recycling also reduce the amount of carbon emissions.
During aluminium cans recycling, only 5 percent of carbon dioxide is released compared to refining or making beverage cans from primary aluminium from bauxite. Moreover, aluminium cans recycle helps in reducing cumulative wastes and the mining impacts. This is because; mining of aluminium (bauxite) has negative impacts in the environment. These impacts can be reduced by means of recycling aluminium and avoiding extensive mining of bauxite (European Aluminium Association, n.d.).
Because recycled aluminium is significantly valuable, many recycling centers accept and buy these aluminium cans. As mentioned earlier, aluminium can be recycled repeatedly without losing their integrity and quality. According to the Aluminium Association in United States, it is more cost-effective to use recycled aluminium than using other metals in many applications. Because of these qualities, aluminium is preferred metal and has wide market. Moreover, recycling of aluminium cans provide the American society with more employment opportunities in manufacturing sectors, which include primary, secondary as well as smelting and production of alloys.

The Future: Aluminum Beverage Cans Recycling in United States by 2020

For aluminium cans recyclers and producers in American market, they must be able to face the challenge of maintaining improvement in energy efficiency as well as deal with the release that result in the upstream operations. There must be collaboration between the users and the producers so that there is an increased rate of cans recycling. Coordination between the major industry players (policy makers, manufacturers as well as the public) is a challenge to aluminium cans recycling.
It is estimated that by the year 2020, the demand for aluminium metal will be going up to 97 million tons. This will involve approximately 31 million of recycled scrap aluminium. In terms of energy reduction, between 1990 and 2006, PFC emissions decreased by 86 percent. It is estimated that because of increased aluminium recycling PCFs per ton of aluminium will have decreased by 50 percent. Today, 600 million tons of aluminium is used in the world. It is estimated that it will reach up to 1 billion tons by the year 2020. Therefore, there is readily available market for aluminium beverage cans in United States because recycling will remain important for constant supply of aluminium in the market. Out of this inventory, the building sector is estimated to represent 35 percent, transport sector 28 percent and cable sector 27 percent by 2020 (John, 2007).


The uses of recycled aluminium in United States indicate that it will provide proper waste management and decrease carbon emission. Aluminium beverage cans in United States are readily available because most of beverages are packed in these cans. Since these aluminium beverage cans are indefinitely recyclable, it means that aluminium can provide a material that can balance the demand of the America growing economy. Moreover, it will help in preserving the environment as well as provide many economic benefits in America and the world in general. Aluminium beverage cans recycle is a proper waste management method to conserve and maintain a clean environment around the American society and the world.

Works Cited

Bergsdal, H., Strømman, A., and Hertwich, E. 2004. The Aluminium Industry: Environment,
Technology and Production. Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Report no.8. 11-16
Boin, U.M.J., and Bertram, M. 2005. Melting standardized aluminum scrap: A mass balance model for Europe: Journal of Metals, v., no. 5. 26–33.
Das, S., Green, J., & Kaufman, J. 2010. Aluminum Recycling: Economic and Environmental Benefits. Phinix, LLC JASG Consulting and Kaufman Associates.
European Aluminium Association. n.d. Aluminium Recycling in Europe: The Road to High Quality Products. Organisation of European Aluminium Refiners and Remelters.
Green, John A. S. 2007. Aluminum Recycling and Processing for Energy Conservation and Sustainability. Materials Park, Ohio: ASM International. 20-26
Handbook of Aluminium Recycling. 2006. Fundamentals, Mechanical Preparation, Metallurgical Processing, Plant Design. Essen: Vulkan. 54-56 p.
Morris, J. 2005. Economic & environmental benefits of a deposit system for beverage containers in the state of Washington. http://www.container-recycling.org/assets/pdfs/reports/2004-EconEnviroWA.pdf.
Wernick and N.J. Themelis.1998. Recycling Metals for the Environment: Annual Reviews Energy and Environment. Vol. 23. 97-465 p.
www.aluminum.org. 2015. Recycling in WWII. The Aluminium Association. http://www.aluminum.org/industries/production/recycling.
www.world-aluminium.org. 2015. International Aluminium Institute. Primary Aluminium Production. http://www.world-aluminium.org/statistics/#data.
www1.eere.energy.gov. 2007. U.S. energy requirements for aluminum production—Historical perspective, theoretical limits and current practices. U.S. Department of Energy. http://www1.eere.energy.gov/industry/aluminum/pdfs/al_theoretical.pdf.

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