The History of Can Recycling
12th Dec 2021
In the world that we now live in, recycling is commonplace. It now comes as naturally to us as throwing anything away – and is infinitely better for the planet. Recycling our waste is not only about reducing the amount that we are putting into landfills, but it is also about reducing the amount of the planet’s natural resources that we are using every day. It is also one of the major things that we can all do, albeit domestically, or commercially, to help us to do our bit for the planet.
Today, we can recycle all sorts of materials, from paper to plastics, to fabric. One of the materials that have been traditionally recycled is metals, and, since they are used by so many of us, a major part of this is can recycling. This can also be pretty lucrative – as highlighted by the fact that there was even a can recycling campaign as the Blue Peter appeal.
Can recycling has a long history dating back to the beginning of the 1900s, when the first aluminium can recycling plant opened in the USA, soon after large-scale aluminium production began in 1886. Since then, can recycling has grown in popularity, mainly through the sheer amount of aluminium waste that is created as a result of how many drink and food cans we use in the world today.
Aluminium can be recycled many times over. In fact, 75% of the aluminium that has ever been made is still in circulation today.
Recycling During the War
During the Second World War, there was a shortage of aluminium that was needed to help to produce aircraft during the war effort. There were notices that appeared in the media pleading for women to give up any aluminium that they could spare so that it could be recycled into RAF aircraft. This included anything from pots and pans to fences and old railings. This scrap metal was often collected by groups of children or Boy Scouts or Girl Guides as a way that they could help the war effort.
Tin Can Recycling in the Home
Although the recycling of tin cans was relatively commonplace beforehand, it involved taking the used tins or cans to a recycling centre or special collection points – as with other recycling such as bottles to the bottle back and paper. It was only in 2003 in England when a law – the Household Waste Recycling Act – was passed that meant that local authorities were required to provide households with the ability to recycle at least two types of material by collecting it by 2010. In many places, this included the recycling of tin cans.
Can Recycling Today
In 2015, Europe recycled 73.6% of aluminium cans – exceeding the 2025 target of 65%. This is testimony to how easy it has become for domestic households and commercial customers to recycle their cans.
Research shows that recycling aluminium actually takes 95% less energy than creating usable aluminium from scratch, whilst producing only 5% of the greenhouse emissions.
Commercial Can Recycling
Commercial can recycling is also having a major impact. Whether it is day-to-day drinks cans or cans that store paint or raw materials that are used for manufacturing, generally speaking, businesses create more can waste than domestic households.
It is essential, therefore, that businesses recycle as much of this waste as possible. Collecting the cans and using can crushers to compact them so that they take a much smaller amount of space is the most effective way to do this, before sending them to a can recycling plant.
Whilst we have seen a great deal of progress in the recycling of tin cans in the UK, there is still a long way to go. The country’s recycling efforts have made a massive difference, and a lot of people are doing their bit in the home. However, there is still a big problem with enabling people to recycle the cans that they use outside of the home.
Brazil is one of the countries in the world that has the most impressive aluminium recycling statistics. This is because they have made it financially viable. They have groups of people who sort through the rubbish on the street, looking for cans and other aluminium that they then go on to sell back to manufacturers, earning them a wage whilst carrying out important recycling work.
Although this sort of initiative might not be practical in the UK, it is perhaps time that we built on the progress that we have already made in can recycling, and look for other ways that we can improve it.