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The Facts

  • In 2010, U.S. manufacturers generated nearly two million tons of aluminum as containers and packaging, and manufacturers used about 1.3 million tons of aluminum to make durable and nondurable goods.’

  • The total amount of aluminum in the municipal solid waste (MSW) stream—3.4 million tons—represented 1.3 percent of total MSW generation in 2010. In 1960, aluminum in MSW was only 0.4 percent of MSW generation (340,000 tons).

  • The largest source of aluminum in the MSW stream is aluminum used beverage containers (UBCs) and other packaging containers.

  • Other sources of aluminum are found in durable and nondurable goods, such as appliances and automobile parts.

  • Manufacturers make 99 percent of all beer cans and 97 percent of all soft drink cans from aluminum. Aluminum beer and soft drink containers were recovered at a rate of about 50 percent of generation (about 0.7 million tons) in 2010, and 36 percent of all aluminum in containers and packaging was recovered for recycling.

  • In 2010, Americans threw away about 2.7 million tons of aluminum in MSW, representing 1 percent of total MSW discards sent to our landfills.

  • Automobiles also contain aluminum, but this aluminum is generally not calculated in measures of MSW generation, recycling, or disposal.

Benefits of Aluminum Recycling

The average aluminum can contains 40 percent post-consumer recycled aluminum. Recovering aluminum for recycling saves money and dramatically reduces energy consumption. The aluminum can recycling process saves 95 percent of the energy needed to produce aluminum from bauxite ore, as well as natural resources, according to the Aluminum Association. Making a ton of aluminum cans from virgin ore, or bauxite, uses 229 BTUs of energy. In contrast, producing cans from recycled aluminum uses only 8 BTUs of energy per can, conserving the equivalent of 36 barrels of oil, or 1,665 gallons of gasoline.