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This file was last modified on: 8/9/2005 12:04:57 PM

Aluminum Recycling
Fact Sheet Index

How many aluminum cans did you use last week? More importantly, how many did you recycle? More than 50 percent of America's aluminum is recycled, yet, 2 million tons of aluminum cans, containers and other types of packaging are thrown away each year. Ohioans can do better than that!

Used aluminum beverage cans are the most recycled item in the U.S.

62.8 percent of the 102 billion cans produced in 1998 were recycled. Did you know the first all-aluminum beverage can appeared on grocery shelves in 1963? The act of recycling used cans soon followed in 1968 in California. One million pounds of aluminum cans were recovered that year, an amount that is melted in about four hours today.

Aluminum has a high market value and continues to provide needed funds for Ohio's curbside and drop-off recycling programs. In 1997 the aluminum manufacturing industry paid out approximately $990 million to U.S. recyclers for aluminum beverage cans. Other types of aluminum, such as siding, gutters, storm window frames and lawn furniture, can also be recycled.

The process of collecting and melting used aluminum plays an important role in Ohio's economy. Two of the world's largest aluminum smelters, rated by production, are located in Ohio. Combined, these two facilities process an average of 15 million pounds of aluminum each month. Recycled materials, such as aluminum, also provide more than 100 Ohio businesses with valuable feedstock for their manufacturing processes.

Recycling aluminum conserves natural resources. It takes four pounds of bauxite ore, aluminum's main ingredient, to produce one pound of aluminum. Every pound of recycled aluminum saves four pounds of ore. Every aluminum beverage can has an average 54.7 percent recycled content.

Here are some more facts about aluminum:

  • Aluminum is less than two percent of the nation's municipal solid waste stream. In 1996 about 3 million tons of aluminum were discarded.
  • Discovered in the 1820s, aluminum is the most abundant metal on earth.
  • Today, 25 percent of the aluminum used in the U.S. goes into packaging. Packaging is the second largest use of aluminum, behind transportation products.
  • In 1974 it took 23 aluminum cans to make one pound. Today, aluminum beverage cans are lighter and 33 produce a pound. A single aluminum can weighs about one half of an ounce.
  • Based on 1996 U.S. EPA estimates, Americans generated 1,600,000 tons of aluminum cans and 360,000 tons of foil which translates into about 14.5 pounds of aluminum packaging and 2.7 pounds of foil per person.

Every minute of every day, an average of 123,097 aluminum cans are recycled. It is estimated that since 1972 more than 14 million tons of aluminum cans have been recycled. These 660+ billion beverage cans, placed end to end, could stretch to the moon nearly 300 times.

In 1996 aluminum companies saved the equivalent of more than 18.4 million barrels of oil or 10.8 billion kilowatt hours. This represents enough energy to supply the electrical needs of a city the size of Pittsburgh for about six years.

In the time it takes you to read this, 14,000 aluminum beverage containers will be landfilled somewhere in the U.S.

Tossing away an aluminum can wastes as much energy as pouring out half of that can's volume of gasoline. If each person recycles one aluminum can each month, 1,750 to 3,500 gallons of gas can be saved.

Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to keep a 100-watt bulb burning for almost four hours or provide power to your television for three hours.

Much of aluminum's recycling value comes from the energy saved when making new aluminum with recycled material. It takes 95 percent less energy to make new aluminum from used cans - 20 recycled cans can be made with the energy needed to produce one can using virgin ore. Today, more than 51 percent of a new can is made from recycled aluminum.

Because aluminum lying in our landfills will still be around in 200 or more years, recycling Ohio's cans and scrap aluminum makes more sense. Recycling aluminum is easy - just rinse and store until the next recycling drive, collection day, or until you can take it to your local recycling center. By recycling aluminum and buying products packaged in aluminum, you will be helping to complete the recycling loop — an aluminum can recycled today will be back on the grocery shelf in about 60 days.

To learn more about aluminum recycling, visit the following web sites:

Container Recycling Institute
1625 Massachusetts Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 232-4677

The Aluminum Association
900 19th St, NW
Washington, DC 20006
(202) 862-5100

Revised December 1999

For more information on recycling or purchasing products made from recycled materials, please contact:

Ohio Department of Natural Resources
Division of Recycling and Litter Prevention
2045 Morse Road
Columbus, Ohio 43229
(614) 265-6333 (voice)

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Toxic waste bad.

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