People have been recycling aluminium for nearly 100 years and an incredible 75 per cent of the metal ever made is still in use today.

Since recycled aluminium has exactly the same properties as new – but takes just five per cent of the energy to produce – aluminium commands a high value on the secondary, or scrap, market and this drives collection for further recycling.

Aluminium can be reprocessed and reformed endlessly, and the metal loses none of its quality during the recycling process.

 

The metal can be reused in the production of a multitude of different products, ranging from cars to window frames, and from aeroplanes to foil trays. This endless reuse cycle is also known as ‘closed loop’ recycling. For drinks cans collected in the UK the closed loop can mean used cans are reprocessed and remade into more drink cans.

 

Five stages of the recycling process:

 

Collection

 

Drinks cans, foil trays and aerosols are typically collected from homes or can banks mixed with food and drink cans made of steel. Some recycling schemes collect foil separately.

 

Sorting

 

The mixed metals will be taken to a waste transfer station or materials recovery facility (MRF) where they are sorted into separate metal streams and compressed into bales.

 

Reprocessing

 

The aluminium bales are then taken to a reprocessing plant, where they go through four stages – shredding, decoating, melting, and casting. During the final stage, the molten metal is cast into large ingots.

 

In the UK Novelis operates Europe’s only dedicated aluminium drinks can recycling plant, where cans are reprocessed in a ‘closed loop’ to make metal used for the manufacture of more beverage cans . This plant has the capacity to recycle every aluminium drink can sold in the UK for the foreseeable future.

 

You can see more of the can recycling process on the Think Cans website

 

Rolling

 

Ingots are transported to a rolling mill and rolled out to make sheet aluminium, from which new packaging can be made.

 

Converting

 

Aluminium sheet is converted into a diverse range of packaging items.