Almost two out of every three aluminium cans in Australia are recycled, with huge benefits to the environment and community. Aluminium doesn't degrade so it can be recycled indefinitely.
Aluminium occurs in nature as bauxite, a mixture of aluminium oxides, iron oxides and clay. Manufacturing this metal is a complex and energy intensive process. Producing recycled aluminium saves 95 percent of the energy used to make aluminium from raw materials. Recycling also decreases the amount of waste in landfill, reduces the demand for raw materials and reduces water use. Millions of dollars are now being paid annually for scrap aluminium.
Australian's recycle over 35,800 tonnes of aluminium cans each year1. That amount from commercial recycling is the equivalent "everyday" greenhouse gas savings of driving a car almost 3 billion km or driving around the equator nearly 75 thousand times.
"Everyday" and unit savings per tonne of aluminium cans2 recycled:
|85,770 km driven3|
|17.7 tonnes CO2e|
|106 houses' energy for a month4|
|191 GJ LHV (53,215 kWh)|
|1,154 bath tubs5|
|202 kL water|
|28 wheelie bins6|
For an explanation of key terms used, please visit our Glossary.
Aluminium is the most cost-effective material to recycle and there are a numerous commercial metal recyclers operating in Australia that accept aluminium cans.
Aluminium cans should be empty and squashed before they are placed in collection bins. Lids and plastic nozzles should be removed from aerosols but these should not be squashed.
Baled cans are put into a gas-fired rotary furnace, which melts the aluminium and removes the paint and coatings on the aluminium cans. The melted aluminium is then tested to determine its alloy content and topped up with primary metals like magnesium, copper and manganese so that it is the right consistency to make new beverage cans. It is then poured and rolled for aluminium can sheet production.
Used aluminium beverage cans recycled in Australia are primarily recycled back into beverage cans. Because aluminium does not 'degrade' during the recycling process, it can be recycled over and over again.
1. Calculated using statistics from www.cleanup.org.au and www.cansmart.org
2. Data for aluminium cans (Commercial & Industrial and Construction & Demolition recycling only) contained in Table 4 (p.14) Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water NSW (2010) Environmental Benefits of Recycling, DECCW, Sydney South
3. “Everyday” greenhouse gas emission savings expressed as number of kilometers driven by an average new passenger and light commercial vehicle (206.6g CO2e / km). National Transport Commission (2012) Carbon Dioxide Emissions from New Australian Vehicles 2011 Information Paper
4. “Everyday” cumulative energy demand savings expressed as average household monthly electricity requirements (500 kWh). 1GJ LHV = 278kWh (GJ LHV = Giga-joules of fossil energy (low heating value); kWh = Kilowatt hour)
5. “Everyday” water savings corresponding to average sized bath tubs (0.175 kL capacity)
6. “Everyday” solid waste savings represented by number of average sized wheelie bins (55kg capacity)
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