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J&B Recycling Knowledge

Recycling for Aluminium and Steel Cans

Recycling for Aluminium and Steel Cans

A lot of the food and drink products we buy in our food shops are packaged in aluminium or steel. Both materials can be recycled after we have finished with them to make either new cans or products.

Recycling aluminium uses around 5% of the energy and emissions needed to make it from the raw material. This metal can be recycled multiple times without losing its properties, so ensuring that we do so can be extremely beneficial for our environment.

Similarly, steel can be recycled time and time again without losing its qualities. In recycling steel, we can conserve non-renewable fossil fuels and reduce the consumption of energy and the emission of gasses like carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

So how do we recycle aluminium and steel?

Here at J&B Recycling, aluminium is extracted using an Eddie Current Separator. The Eddy Current Separator uses a magnetic rotor to “repel” non-ferrous metals, such as aluminium, and enables a separation from non-conductive metals. The magnets form eddy currents in the aluminium which in turn create a magnetic field around the piece of aluminium, the polarity of that magnetic field causes the aluminium to be repelled away from the magnet. This repulsion makes the trajectory of the aluminium greater than that of the non-metallics, allowing the two material streams to be separated.

You can see the Eddie Current Separator in action in our video below:

Steel is extracted using overband magnets. Overband Magnets are designed to lift and automatically remove ferrous metal from conveyed material.

Once the materials have been separated by J&B Recycling, they are transported to reprocessing facilities to be made into something new.

Aluminium cans are often shredded in order to remove any of the remaining coloured coating or printing. They are then melted down in a furnace. Once melted, the molten metal is poured into ingot casts to be set. Each ingot can then be made into around 1.5 million cans!

Steel cans are also melted in a furnace where molten iron is added. Oxygen is then poured into the furnace to heat it to around 1700°C. The liquid metal is poured into a mould to form slabs which are then rolled into coils. The coils that are created are used to make other steel products such as cars and bikes.

What is the environmental impact of recycling aluminium and steel?

There are significant environmental benefits to recycling aluminium and steel.

Recycling Aluminium:

  • Recycling aluminium uses 95% less energy than producing aluminium from raw materials.
  • It also saves 97% of greenhouse gas emissions produced in the primary production process.
  • Recycling 1 tonne of aluminium saves 9 tonnes of CO2 emissions and 4 tonnes of bauxite – the raw material from which aluminium is made. 1 tonne of CO2 is equivalent to driving over 3,500 miles.
  • The metal is a permanently available resource. It is 100 per cent recyclable, for ever, so carbon savings increase every time it passes through the recycling loop.
  • Making aluminium cans from recycled metal is 20 times more energy efficient than using primary material (i.e. made from raw materials)
  • The empty drink can you recycle could pass through the recycling process and be back on sale as a brand-new can in just 60 days

Recycling Steel:

  • Recycling steel provides around 73 percent of the energy needed to produce it from new raw materials, meaning less mining and producing new metals and a reduced carbon footprint.
  • The biggest impact of recycling steel is in its pollution reduction. For every ton of steel that is recycled, 2,500 pounds of iron ore, 1,400 pounds of coal, and 120 pounds of limestone are conserved. This ultimately results in a reduction of carbon dioxide emissions.
  • A reduction in steel waste also results in less impact on plant life and groundwater. When steel materials are left in landfills, hard metals like nickel and chromium are absorbed and eventually work their way into groundwater sources. Steel materials also make the ground acidic, making it difficult for plant life to grow.

How can you help recycling aluminium and steel?

Aluminium and steel packaging can be put in your kerbside recycling. It is important to remember to rinse out food cans once they are empty before placing them into your kerbside recycling bin! Larger metal items, such as pots and pans, cannot be put in your kerbside recycling, but can be taken to your local household waste recycling centre (HWRC) also known as the tip. Always check your local authority website to see what can and cannot be recycled in your kerbside recycling.

J&B Recycling collect and sort mixed cans into aluminium and steel. We also recover cans from local authority kerbside grades including mixed glass and cans, mixed plastics and cans, and fully co-mingled from a variety of sources. These are then recycled back into a variety of metal products including new cans.

J&B Recycling are based in the North of England. Our commercial collection services operate from the Scottish Borders down to Hull and North Yorkshire. Our main areas for collecting and processing commercial waste include Teesside (Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Stockton), Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, Sunderland, North Tyneside and Northumberland. Get in touch for more information and to request a quote.

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