Let’s learn about the amazing journey drink cans go on when they are recycled!
First the can is collected. It waits patiently inside a recycling bin, ready to start its exciting journey.
There will be many different materials inside a household recycling bin so the first job is to sort the different types, so all the aluminium is in the same place.
Once sorted, the aluminium drink cans are compressed into large blocks called bales and then sent to a recycling plant. These bales are loaded onto a conveyor, which takes them to a shredder.
The shredder chops the cans into small pieces – each the size of a 50p coin. Smaller pieces are easier to process than larger ones, so this helps things run smoothly. The shredded cans are passed under a very powerful magnet. This removes any traces of steel. Steel can also be recycled – but not here!
The aluminium shreds move along the conveyor into a de-coater. Here, any decoration is removed from the shredded cans. This is done with hot gases. The heat also helps prepare the shreds for the next stage – the furnace.
The shreds are melted at a temperature of 700C – which is actually a low melting point for a metal. A scraping tool removes any other chemicals that might come to the surface and the pure molten aluminium is then slowly poured into moulds.
A curtain of water cools the metal, and it hardens and sinks into the moulds, allowing more molten metal to be poured in, forming ingots.
The finished ingots are lifted from the casting pit by an overhead crane. It takes about three hours to cast the ingots. The factory makes three ingots at a time. Each is 9 metres long and weighs 27 tonnes – that’s the equivalent of 1.5 million recycled aluminium drink cans!
The ingots are loaded onto a truck and despatched to the rolling mill where the ingots are rolled into a very, very thin sheet. This is then used by can making companies to make new drink cans. It takes around 60 days for a recycled drink can to back on the shelf as a new can!
When you think about how amazing aluminium is and how much of the material can be easily reused, you can see it would be daft not to recycle! Next time you enjoy a drink from a can, think about the journey it might have gone on, and make sure to recycle so the journey continues!
Click here for some amazing free aluminium education resources!
And remember to always recycle your aluminium – whether a drink can or foil tray, foil wrapping or bottle cap – always put your aluminium into your recycling. After all, aluminium is infinitely recyclable.
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