Don’t bin your tin!
Why bother recycling?
Recycling is an important part of a sustainable lifestyle. It’s important for the future of the planet that we all live ‘sustainably’ – in other words make the best use of limited natural resources.
Burying rubbish which is made of materials that could be reused or recycled is not sustainable. Some of the materials deposited in landfill sites can have a detrimental impact on the environment over many years.
In the UK most of our rubbish is buried in landfill sites, but the amount of land available for this is running out fast.
Is mining aluminium bad for the environment?
Mining aluminium has several consequences for the environment and people’s health.
1- Mining disrupts the land
Aluminium doesn’t occur naturally in the earth’s crust, it has to be extracted from its ore – bauxite – which is mined and then smelted in a very energy-intensive process. Although great care is taken to rebuild the land after mining, changes do occur as a result of mining that are detrimental to the surrounding environment.
2- Mining affects the environment
Mining bauxite disrupts rain forests, results in the loss of habitat for plant and animal species, erodes the soil and severely affects the water retention capability of the soil. In addition, the degradation of Jamaica’s delicate coral reefs along its south coast is as a result of alumina spilling during ship loading
3- Mining has health consequences for locals
Caustic soda is used to extract alumina from raw bauxite. In some areas in Jamaica this has leached into the groundwater supply, increasing the sodium content of domestic water supply, resulting in increased cases of hypertension amongst residents. Dust clouds from the industry adversely affects the respiratory system of locals
Why bother recycling aluminium?
1- Less energy
Compared to mining and smelting, recycling aluminium drink cans is far less energy intensive. Recycling aluminium requires only 5% of the energy and produces only 5% of the CO2 emissions as compared with primary production.
A recycled aluminium can saves enough energy to run a television for three hours.
2- Less raw materials
Recycling aluminium reduces the need to mine bauxite, which, as we have seen, can have negative consequences for the surrounding areas and the people living there.
3- Less landfill
Keeping anything out of the landfill is a bonus! With an estimated nine years worth of landfill space in the UK, we all need to recycle more and keep things out of the landfill. If all of these cans were recycled there would be 14 million fewer dustbins emptied into the country’s landfill sites every year.
4- Cost effective
Aluminium can be recycled indefinitely, as reprocessing does not damage its structure. Aluminium is also the most cost-effective material to recycle.
5- Easy to recycle
Aluminium cans are one of the easiest materials to recycle. New drinks cans appear on the shelf just six weeks after recycling!
Is it easy to recycle aluminium drinks cans at home?
Most local authorities will recycle drinks cans. All you need to do is rinse the tin out and pop it in the correct receptacle at your local recycling amenity. Some county councils will collect from your kerbside, so check out Recycle Now to see if this is the case for your area.
Recycling aluminium cans is a great way to get reluctant kids on board if you put them in charge of a can crusher! They can flex their muscles, get rid of aggression and be doing something positive for the environment or favourite charity in the process. Click on the can crusher to buy!
Did you know?
Currently 42% of aluminium drinks cans are recycled in the UK. Although this is a great improvement on the 2% recycled in 1989, there were still a massive 3 billion cans that were landfilled. Switzerland and Finland recycle over 90% of their cans.
You can collect cans for charity. Aluminium is the most valuable packaging material in everyday use and there are nearly 300 places in the UK that will gladly collect your cans to turn into cash.
If every aluminium can sold in the UK was recycled through cash for cans it would raise over £30 million for charities, groups and good causes.
Check out Alupro for details of your nearest charity collection point. If you are a school or business interested in setting up your own collection then all the information you need can be found on the website.
As a further incentive to everyone to get recycling, a nationwide Alupro campaign promises to plant fruit trees in Malawi for every tonne recycled.
Sources and further information