How is Aluminum Recycled and What is the Process Involved?

Summary: Apart from the environmental benefits, recycling aluminum also meets significant market demand.


Aluminum recycling may not appear to be the most intriguing topic at first. However, as one better understands the value of recycling aluminum products, it becomes more intriguing. Recycling aluminum is, in fact, a wise financial and environmental decision. Find below how aluminum can be recycled and the process involved.

How is Aluminum Recycled?

Recycling aluminum is a lot more straightforward than devising new aluminum, which is just one of the many advantages of this process. When producing new aluminum, a costly and energy-intensive process is used that comprises the electrolysis of aluminum oxide (Al2O3). But before this, the aluminum oxide necessitates being mined from bauxite ore. Lastly, refining takes place using the Bayer Process. While this method was formed in the 1880s for a specific purpose, reusing aluminum rather than producing new metal is a better choice.

The Recycling Process

To better understand how this process works, consider how aluminum cans are recycled.

  • In the beginning, the aluminum cans are segregated from waste if they are not already.
  • The cans are then cleaned before being crushed into huge blocks. Blocking is necessary because it reduces oxidation. When exposed to oxygen, the surface of the cans will quickly revert to aluminum oxide rather than aluminum).
  • The aluminum blocks are then transported to the furnace, where they are melted to form molten aluminum. This also gets rid of any coatings or ink on the cans.
  • These molten aluminum blocks are then formed into slabs or larger blocks known as ingots (each containing nearly 1.6 million cans)
  • It is now time to send the ingots to mills to be rolled and repurposed into new cans or other aluminum products.

The aluminum is essentially remelted and physically altered to be utilized for another aluminum product. Apart from the environmental benefits, recycling aluminum also meets significant market demand. Even though aluminum goods can be made lighter, the demand for aluminum generally continues to rise. Owing to recycling, aluminum materials can be readily available for many uses, including food storage, medical equipment, and much more.