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Recycling: What Difference Does It Make?

Whether you drop a can of pop into a waste or recycling bin, it’s easy to think that this small act has no real consequence. After all, once it’s in, you rarely have to think about it again. And in a way, this is great, because it makes recycling easy and hassle-free, but on the other hand, it is also makes it a practice that is very easy to neglect. But if you did chose to recycle an aluminium can, what difference would it make?

The journey

Once that an aluminium can is dropped into a recycling bin, it is collected and taken to a treatment plant where it is cleaned and passed through a re-melting process. This removes any coatings and inks that may be present on the outside of the cans.

This takes around three hours to complete, and the aluminium is then made into large ingots at around 9 metres in length – each one will contain roughly 1.5 million cans.

From there the ingots are taken to mills to be rolled out and transformed into more cans.

But what makes this exceptional?

Aside from the fact that it can take as little as six weeks for a can to go from bin-to-shelf, a single recycled can may save enough energy to power a television for up to three hours.

What’s more, it takes twenty times the amount of energy to create a single can from raw materials than it does to recycle one.

The sad truth however, is that over 80 million cans end up in the landfill every single year at the cost of around £36 million, which is the equivalent of hiring extra 1,650 emergency workers in the UK.

As far as the environment is concerned, one tonne of recycled aluminium avoids the emissions of nine tonnes of CO2 – or the equivalent of driving 27,000 miles.

Can other forms of recycling be just as beneficial?

Indeed, recycling can be positive across the board, with glass, paper, and plastic.

In regards to glass, like aluminium, it is 100 per cent recyclable, and with every tonne headed for the recycling plants, there is a saving of 314kg of Co2.

As for paper, which unlike glass, is biodegradable, up to 73 per cent of air pollution could be saved if it was produced from recycled materials. What’s more, it takes roughly 24 trees to make one tonne of paper.

And plastic, which can take no less than 500 years to biodegrade, the average family could actually save 154kg of CO2 if they recycled all their plastic bottles, which is roughly the weight of an adult male panda.

Image credits: Lady using vending machine © kasto, cans © Scanrail, Panda © Thomas Lenne