What Happens to Recycled Aluminum Cans?

Jan 28, 2021 3:00 PM ET

The COVID-19 pandemic has made Americans more eco-conscious than ever, according to a recent survey by Republic Services and OnePoll. 

In fact, Republic Services reported a dramatic 18% increase in recycled aluminum in 2020, which can entirely be attributed to the pandemic. This increase is great news for the environment as aluminum is one item that can be recycled an infinite number of times.  Plus, recycling aluminum helps conserve energy and resources! According to aluminum.org, making a can from recycled aluminum saves more than 90% of the energy required to make a new can.

In our recent survey, 58% of survey respondents shared that they have reevaluated their eco-friendly habits and have a new vested interest in sustainability. With this new interest in sustainability, more consumers may be wondering what happens to their recyclables – like aluminum cans – after tossing them in the bin.  
Did you know that recycled cans can be back on grocery store shelves in as little as 30 days after being placed in the recycling bin? It’s true; aluminum cans are recycled over and over again in a true "closed loop" recycling process, and this process can happen very quickly.  
The lifecycle of an aluminum can starts on the shelf. Once the can is purchased, brought home, and used, it is time for recycling. When recycling aluminum cans (or any bottles or jars for that matter), make sure all items are empty, clean, and dry.  Even one food-covered container in the recycling bin can contaminate an entire truckload of recyclables
After your clean and empty can is placed in the bin, your local recycling collection company will bring it to a materials recovery facility for sorting. The aluminum cans are separated out during the sorting process and baled together. That bale is then sold to a company that will transform the recycled material into the cans you use.  So, in as little as 30 days later, that same can will take on a new life back on the grocery store shelf.  

Now that you know what happens to your aluminum cans after you toss them in your recycling bin, you can help us recycle even more aluminum cans in your daily life, which will help the environment and ensure that there are plenty of cans to go around. 

Learn more about recycling and how it supports sustainability at RepublicServices.com