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What is Made from Recycled Aluminum?

By Erika Peterson
Updated May 17, 2024
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A number of items are made from recycled aluminum, including cement, beverage cans, dishwashers, and other aluminum products. This recycled metal is also used in other types of items that many people would not think of, such as makeup products, chemicals, and furniture.

Aluminum is produced from bauxite, which is a sedimentary rock with various minerals in it. Bauxite is gathered through open pit mining. The water is taken out of the ore, which leaves a white powder called alumina, or aluminum oxide. This material is made into aluminum.

Bauxite is used in cement, beverage cans, dishwashers, siding on houses, makeup, chemicals, and other aluminum products. Recycling aluminum saves approximately 95% of the energy it takes to produce more aluminum from bauxite, so now about 30% of aluminum products are made from previously recycled items. It is also an efficient process, which takes as little as 60 days for a can to be collected, melted and made into a new can.

Recycling aluminum is one step in helping humans to achieve sustainability. Sustainability is described as a paradigm shift that leads people to change their priorities and use technology and creativity to meet the needs of the current generation without compromising future generations' ability to meet their own needs as well. By recycling instead of continuously using up natural resources, people can conserve energy and resources to maintain a quality of life that can be shared with generations to come. Because recycling metal does not damage its structure, aluminum can be recycled over and over indefinitely.

Recycled aluminum is made into pie pans, house siding, aluminum foil, cans, small appliances, lawn furniture, automobiles, bicycles, and many other items. Because of its energy conservation benefits, recycling is becoming more popular among those involved in green living. Some types of wine and water bottles are now made with aluminum as well. Nearly all beverage cans are made from aluminum, which were first introduced in the United States in the 1960s.

There are many different ways to use recycled aluminum, in addition to melting it down to be made into new products. Counter tops, jewelry, pet tags, floor tiles, and even a boat that a man used to sail from Hawaii to Japan have been made with aluminum that was recycled. The pull-tabs from soda cans have been made into handbags, necklaces, and even lounge chairs.

Aluminum cans are by far the most commonly recycled item. Over 1,600 million pounds (725,747,792 kg) of cans are recycled per year, compared to 53 million pounds (24,040,396 kg) as recently as 1972. Each can is worth about a penny for a recycling consumer, and Americans now earn about $1 billion US Dollars per year through recycling their aluminum. Each pound of aluminum that is recovered saves the energy resources needed to generate about 7.5 kilowatt-hours of electricity.

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Discussion Comments

By anon1002045 — On Aug 24, 2019

I am currently designing a range of clothes for disabled people. I am trying to find out if zips can be made from recycled aluminium. I would be very grateful for any information.

By feasting — On Sep 07, 2012

It sounds like all that scrap aluminum recycling I have been doing over the years has really been good for something. At times, I wondered if it was worth the effort, but after reading that so many things can be made from it, I believe that it was. I plan to continue recycling all my scrap aluminum.

By shell4life — On Sep 06, 2012

I had no idea that so many things were made from recycled aluminum! It actually sounds like just about everything that is made from aluminum that comes from the earth can be recycled to make either more of the same thing or other aluminum products.

By cloudel — On Sep 06, 2012

@kylee07drg – Most places can't recycle potato chip bags, because they can't break down the components. However, there are many ways that you can reuse the bags in your own home, and this is a form of recycling.

When I was little, I liked making recycled aluminum jewelry from chip bags. I also made hair bows by cutting off the front of the bag, gathering it in the center, and securing it to a barrette with a twist tie. This caught on at my school, and soon, it was the cool thing to do.

By kylee07drg — On Sep 05, 2012

Are potato chip bags made of recyclable aluminum? I know that they contain some form of aluminum, because their insides are so silver and shiny. I would like to know if I can put them in the recycling bins.

By julies — On Aug 30, 2012

I never realized they used recycled aluminum in makeup products. Is this something that is clearly shown on the label?

I know that many deodorant products contain aluminum and am wondering if this is the same type of material?

By Mykol — On Aug 29, 2012

@andee-- When my kids were younger they collected pop cans and recycled them for spending money. I see this as a winning situation all the way around. The aluminum can is being recycled, there is less litter and my kids had some spending money.

Recycling aluminum cans for money is much easier in a state that offers a refund like this. This is stamped on the top of every pop can that is sold in our state.

As far as aluminum cans I use for cooking, I rinse these out and put them in my green recycle bin that gets collected once every 2 weeks.

By andee — On Aug 29, 2012

I live in a state that offers 5 cents back on every pop can that is turned in for recycling. Of course you pay this extra 5 cents when you buy the can, but I think it is a great way to recycle. It makes you a lot more conscious about what you do with your empty pop can.

You can either toss it in the garbage or collect it for recycling. Once we get a large bag full of empty cans we take them to the recycling center to get our money.

This is also used as a fundraiser for different organizations. People will give them all their empty pop cans and the money is used for their group or organization.

By anon263580 — On Apr 25, 2012

What is the use of a west aluminum composite panel in any small size? Please guide me.

By SarahG — On May 13, 2011

@sobeit, you can get your daughter to find the local aluminum recycling center and ask them how to get the beach residents involved.

She can take her own recycled goods to a neighboring park or church that does recycling (she can check her local paper for the dates and times).

For more information, tell her to check out local recycling websites for the latest info on everything about recycling.

By sobeit — On May 11, 2011

What if your neighborhood still doesn't recycle?

I'm disturbed that my daughter's neighborhood in Ft. Lauderdale Beach (a very affluent neighborhood at that) doesn't even recycle in 2011.

What can she do to get her apartment complex involved?

By laluna — On Nov 24, 2009

It is so worthwhile to recycle aluminum.

The first and most obvious one is that you can get some money back when you recycle.

Of course there is another, much more important side to recycling aluminum and that is the energy saving.

It takes about 75% more energy to get usable aluminum from the ore, than it does from the recycling process.

That in itself should be sufficient to take aluminum cans to the nearest recycling center for processing, and not to dispose of it in the trash.

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