Aluminum recycling might not sound like the most exciting topic right off the bat. But the more we understand about the importance of recycling aluminum products, the more interesting it becomes.
Unfortunately, many people aren’t aware of the value of recycling aluminum products. For example, did you know this material is considered “the most valuable item in the recycling bin?” But rather than recycling this valuable material so it can be repurposed, it often ends up in the garbage.
Consider this: $700 million worth of aluminum cans are dumped in the garbage each year. Not to mention, in 2018 alone, Americans generated 1.9 million tons of aluminum waste from containers and packaging.
The truth is, recycling aluminum is a smart economic and environmental decision. That’s why today, we’re going to cover this topic at length. From which aluminum products are recyclable, to how the recycling process works, and so much more, we will tell you everything you need to know about recycling aluminum.
Which Aluminum Products Can Be Recycled?
First, let’s cover which aluminum products can be recycled. Often, we meet with people who tell us they had no idea they could have been recycling all kinds of aluminum products they assumed were garbage instead.
Aluminum products you can recycle
Here are some examples of the aluminum products you can recycle:
- Window frames
- Old cars
- Clippings, borings, and other manufacturing scrap
- Leftover skeletons from aluminum sheets cut to create cans
- UBC cans (Universal Beverage Cans)
- Scrap metal (including HVAC scrap metal and electrical motor scrap)
- Pie pans
Additionally, there are many products or items that include aluminum, even if they aren’t 100% aluminum. Two great examples? Lawn furniture and wheelchairs! Both of these tend to include valuable aluminum that can be recycled if it is separated from the rest of the material.
And for those involved in the marine industry in Florida, you won’t want to miss this: there’s often incredible value in the scrap metal leftover from customizing your boat or getting rid of an old vessel. For example, sailboat ballasts are very heavy and could be worth thousands of dollars in lead scrap value.
The magnet test
If you have been researching about recycling an aluminum, you have probably come across something is known as the magnet test. This test can help identify certain types of metal to help you determine what’s recyclable.
If a magnet sticks to a metal item, it likely isn’t aluminum. Instead, it’s more likely steel or cast iron. Besides aluminum, magnets also don’t stick to copper, brass, tin, or solver. (Tin and aluminum are often mistaken for one another, but a quick way to tell them apart is this simple magnet test.)
This test can be a helpful starting point if you’re looking for a quick way to separate aluminum products from other materials. But to get the most value for your products, we always recommend working with professional metal recyclers.
How Is Aluminum Recycled?
Now that we know which aluminum products are recyclable, it’s time to talk about exactly how the recycling process works.
Recycling aluminum is a lot more straightforward than creating new aluminum, which is just one of the many benefits of this process we’ll cover in a minute.
When creating new aluminum, an expensive and energy-intensive process is used that involves the electrolysis of aluminum oxide (Al2O3). But before this can happen, the aluminum oxide needs to be mined from bauxite ore. Finally, refining takes place using the Bayer Process. This process was created in the 1880s, and while it served an important purpose, recycling aluminum rather than creating new aluminum is a preferable option. (Learn more about the Bayer Process here)
The recycling process
Let’s look at how aluminum cans are recycled to explain how this process works.
- First, the aluminum cans are separated from waste if they aren’t already.
- Next, the cans are cleaned and crushed into large blocks. Blocking is important because it helps minimize oxidation. Otherwise, the surface of the cans will quickly revert to aluminum oxide rather than aluminum when it’s exposed to oxygen).
- Next, it’s time for the aluminum blocks to head to the furnace where they’re heated to create molten aluminum. This also removes any coating or ink that may be on the cans.
- Then, these blocks of molten aluminum are made into slabs or larger blocks called ingots (each one contains roughly 1.6 million cans!)
- Now it’s time for the ingots to be sent to mills for rolling and repurposing for new cans or other aluminum products.
Essentially, the aluminum is re-melted and physically transformed so it can be repurposed for another aluminum product.
Pretty incredible, isn’t it? And this entire process can happen within about six weeks of the time you recycle your aluminum cans until they’re made into another product.
Benefits of Recycling Aluminum
We mentioned that recycling aluminum is a straightforward process, but this is just one of the advantages of recycling this material. Here are some of the other good reasons to recycle aluminum and why the process itself is beneficial.
Energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly
Aluminum is an incredibly important material that people and businesses around the world rely on each day. Simply put, it’s something we can’t live without! But rather than relying on the environmentally-taxing Bayer Process to create new aluminum, recycling aluminum is a much more efficient alternative. In fact, this option uses only about 5% of the energy it takes to create new aluminum. It’s no wonder this is the way to go.
Do you want to learn more about the environmental benefits of recycling scrap metal? We have a whole blog post on the subject right here.
Reducing your carbon footprint
Recycling aluminum rather than creating new aluminum has its own environmental benefits. But as for the everyday consumer and how they can reduce their carbon footprint? Simply recycling their aluminum products can make a huge difference by keeping these products out of landfills.
Here are some more incredible facts about recycling aluminum you won’t want to miss:
- Thanks to recycling aluminum, more than 90 millions tons of carbon dioxide are stopped from being released into the environment each year (Resource)
- A single recycled aluminum can minimize the amount of carbon dioxide emissions equal to a one-hour car ride or powering a TV for three hours (Resource)
- Using recycled aluminum for vehicle manufacturing results in lighter, more fuel-efficient vehicles that help with the reduction of fossil fuels. The average car contained between 220 to 265 pounds of aluminum in 2002. In 2020, this portion of aluminum has increased in the average vehicle by up to 459 pounds on average. This number is expected to grow by another 12% in the next five years.
- Recycling aluminum saves more than 90 percent of the energy costs necessary for primary production
- It prevents 97% of greenhouse gas emissions than creating new aluminum
- Recycling aluminum saves nine tonnes of CO2 emissions and four tonnes of bauxite
Satisfies a demand
Beyond the environmental benefits, recycling aluminum also satisfies a huge demand in the market. Although aluminum products can be made increasingly lighter, the demand for aluminum, in general, continues to grow. By recycling aluminum, aluminum products can be readily available for a variety of purposes—from food storage to medical equipment and much more.
We’re often asked how recyclable aluminum is, and the answer is completely! Yes—aluminum is 100% recyclable, making it one of the most recyclable materials in the world. Additionally, aluminum can be recycled without sacrificing any quality, unlike other recyclable products like PET plastic bottles.
According to the EPA, recycling actually creates more jobs than incinerators or landfills:
“Incinerating 10,000 tons of waste creates one job; landfilling 10,000 tons of waste creates six jobs; recycling 10,000 tons of waste creates 36 jobs.”
That means, by recycling rather than tossing aluminum and other recyclable products, can have economic benefits beyond putting money back in your own pocket.
How To Recycle Your Aluminum Waste
If all the benefits of recycling aluminum have you convinced you would like to step up your recycling game, you’re in the right place! When it comes to how to recycle your aluminum waste, there are a few different routes you can take.
Let’s talk about some specific aluminum products and the particular methods for recycling you can choose from.
Finished your soda or other canned product? You can simply rinse out your aluminum cans and place them in your curbside recycling bin. There’s not even a need to crush them. You can also collect these cans and take them to a recycling center where they can be sorted.
Don’t toss that aluminum foil! Instead, give them a quick rinse and add them to your curbside container along with other recyclables or take them to your community recycling depot.
Aluminum scrap metal
If you’re here, you might be wondering more about aluminum scraps than you are about foil or cans.
Private citizens often have aluminum products to recycle, whether they’re going through their garage or basement or cleaning up their yard. There are also many industries that regularly use recycling aluminum services.
Here are just a few of them:
- Commercial companies
Some establishments prefer to recycle their materials by themselves. If this is the path you plan to take, it’s important to get familiar with your local scrap yards. Depending on the amount of material you have to recycle, you will also need to look into vehicle rentals or movers to help transport the metal.
Or, you could sort your metal scraps yourself and separate the aluminum products for removal. Then, you can contact metal recyclers to take care of the rest.
But the most straightforward and efficient option is contacting local metal recyclers to take care of ALL of this for you.
The benefits of working with professional metal recyclers
Turning to professional metal recyclers is always your best bet for recycling aluminum! Here’s why.
Relying on professional metal recyclers can take the guesswork out of recycling aluminum. Professionals are more familiar with local scrap yards and know exactly where to take your material. At the same time, they’re responsible for sorting and transporting which saves you hours of labor.
Not to mention, it helps ensure you get the best bang for your buck. Of course, that’s particularly true if you turn to trusted recyclers with a great reputation for fair service and pricing.
Recycling Aluminum in Fort Pierce
As busy business owners ourselves, we know how important it is to find trustworthy services to help you wherever they can. If you’re in need of recycling aluminum services in Fort Pierce or surrounding areas, we encourage you to give us a call.
We offer many services beyond recycling your aluminum products, including office and warehouse cleanouts, flatbed services, equipment removal, electronics recycling, and much more. Whether you are just looking to make some extra space or you’re undertaking a big project, we’re here to help with scrap removal service jobs of all sizes.
We also believe it’s incredibly important to turn to metal recyclers who do their best to keep your scraps out of landfills. At Scrap Gators, we’re proud to say we donate or recycle about 70% of everything we collect. Additionally, all of our customers receive free pickups of their material so they don’t have to waste time loading and transporting material.
Give us a call today for all your commercial and industrial scrap metal needs. For any commercial jobs, we’ll come to you with our trucks to make your life easier. Click here to get a pricing estimate or give us a call to schedule your scrap removal.
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