Recycling soda cans is surprisingly fast and efficient.
On recycling day, a truck comes by to pick up your neighborhood’s household waste and delivers it to the local recycling facility. Your soda, beer and soup cans are quickly melted down and sold to a manufacturer, who then turns your metal waste it into new cans. They then fill those cans with food or drink and put them back on store shelves… all in as little as eight weeks.
Eight weeks!! Not too shabby, eh?! Let’s see how they do it.
Here’s how the metal is recycled
The metal cans are moved along a conveyor belt, where they are sorted from other waste.
Steel (tin) cans are magnetic and aluminum cans are not. So a magnet is used to sort everything. The tin cans are picked up by the magnet, leaving the aluminum cans on the belt to be routed to a different area of the facility.
Both metals are shredded into small pieces and any color coating or labeling is removed. The small metal pieces are formed into blocks, which are then melted in a large furnace.
The melted aluminum is poured into a mold, cooled with water and rolled into thin sheets, while the melted steel is poured into a mold, which is cooled and rolled into coils.
The aluminum sheets and steel coils are then sold to manufacturers, who turn the metal into more food and drink cans. The recycled steel can also be made into paperclips, automobiles, bicycles, bridges, kitchen gadgets and utensils.
Good to know
Metal is a more sustainable choice than plastic, but glass is the ultimate choice for food and drink packaging.
Tin cans, aluminum cans and other household metals can be recycled an infinite number of times without any loss of quality. The same is true of glass. But the same is not true of plastic, which degrades easily and can only be recycled once or twice.
Therefore, when shopping for things like tomato sauce, baby food, or soups, choose cans or glass over plastic for sustainability reasons. However do note that the liner of many canned foods contain BPA to help preserve the contents. So while canned goods are a more sustainable choice than plastic, food packaged in glass is healthier than both cans and plastic and is the ultimate choice.