|From this .........
|via an energy intensive and environmentally destructive process||.... To this
The aluminium can you drink out of starts life as red soil. This soil is bauxite and is found in tropical regions of the world. Quarrying the bauxite is a very destructive and wasteful process. (4-5 tonnes of bauxite are needed for 1 tonne of aluminium and the \'red mud\' contaminated with caustic soda, which is a waste product of the mining, has to be stored in ponds, which can cover a very large area - not to mention the destruction of rain forest cover to get at the bauxite inf the first place). What\'s more, the final stage of the process involves electrolysis which is extremely energy intensive. (An average of 15.7 kWh of electricity is used to produce 1 kg of aluminium in this process (3))
The good news is that aluminium is recyclable ... again and again without loss of quality. Recycling aluminium saves 95% of the energy inputs for manufacture alone ... and saves on the destructive bauxite mining process. Some European countries have taken this message on board and have good recycling rates - but there are still too many aluminium cans going to landfill and incinerators. AND the amount of aluminium cans used is increasing. In Europe, the amount we used increased by 11% during the year 2000.
One great problem about aluminium cans is that they cannot easily be separated from general waste. Aluminium is not magnetic and has to be separated by more sophisticated machines than giant magnets that are used to separate steel cans. In addition, many cans have a steel body, but aluminium top and bottom, making sorting more difficult.
European league table of recycle rates.
|Country||aluminium can recycling rate Year 1999(%)||aluminium can recycling rate Year 2000(%)|
Data from European Aluminium Association (www.eaa.net)