Recycling Aluminium

As a retired metallurgist I was interested to read an article in the April edition of "Materials World" (our professional journal) about the recycling of aluminium.  There are some points worth passing on to all conservationists.

Aluminium is a very abundant element but its production requires huge amounts of energy - which is why the world's major producers sited their plants in Norway, Canada and other countries with large supplies of hydroelectric power.  However, according to the Maria Felice writing in "Materials World", the recycling process for aluminium requires just 5% of the energy used in its primary production.  For this reason we should all take care to recycle this metal at every opportunity.

recycle logoIn daily life we come across aluminium in drinks cans, in those metal trays used for ready-meals and for cakes and pies, and in kitchen foil (wrongly called "tin foil").  It is also used for wrapping chocolates, Easter eggs, and various other sweets.  All these items can and should be recycled if they are clean.

It is important to be able to distinguish aluminium foil from various other wrappers which may look metallic.  Crisp packets, for example, are often made from a plastic film coated with a very thin metallic layer.  These are not recyclable.  The "scrunch test" is the easy way to tell the difference.  If the material springs back when scrunched, then it cannot be recycled.  Little items of foil, like sweet wrappers and bits of kitchen foil, are best screwed up and put into an empty beverage can for recycling.

It's only a small contribution, but it mounts up to a major environmental saving, with Europe now recycling more than 55% of all aluminium packaging.  I hope Trust members will want to spread the message.


Peter Hatherley