Aluminum is a soft, pliable, silvery white metal that is used in a variety of applications. It is used to make soda cans, transportation such as cars and aircraft, in cooking utensils, in construction and in electrical appliances. Aluminum is the most widely uses metal in the world with approximately 40 million tons produced per year. With so much aluminum in use around the world it is no wonder that techniques to recycle it have been developed. So how is aluminum recycled?
The Recycling of Aluminum
Aluminum is one of the easiest resources to recycle and is 100% recyclable. This means that when it is recycled it does not lose any of its natural qualities and is just as reliable as the first time it was used. Recycled aluminum is also cheaper and more energy efficient to produce that raw aluminum. The first step in the recycling process is the collection of used aluminum products. This is done is a variety of ways from home recycling to larger industrial recycling. Once it is collected it is taken to a recycling plant. Then it is sorted and cleaned for reprocessing. The aluminum is then crushed into large blocks, which minimizes oxidation when it is re-melted. The large blocks of scrap aluminum are placed in large furnaces where they are heated to 750 °C ± 100 °C to create molten aluminum. This removes the coating and inks that may have been on the surface of the aluminum. The molten aluminum is poured out into large bars called ingots. The ingots are sent to special mills where they are rolled out into flat sheets giving the aluminum greater strength. This is then used to make aluminum products such as cans, packaging and other products. This process can be done over and over again and the aluminum will still be just as useful as when it was first extracted and used.