The aluminium can crushing machines are running this week turning our star recycling metal into bales ready to be driven to a recycling plant and melted down.
Then it can get made into anything from more cans, bicycles and buildings to aeroplanes.
Aluminium is a pretty plentiful metal – there’s loads of it in the earth’s crust. So where is the incentive to recycle?
Quite apart from the environmental benefits of recycling it’s a great deal cheaper to recycle used aluminium than use new. That’s because aluminium occurs as an ore, in other words mixed with other substances. To separate it needs electrolysis, a process which needs large amounts of expensive electricity.
At a local level here in Coventry it means we can pay people small amounts of cash for aluminium cans, crush and bale them and get paid by recycling plants for the bales. For some reason they’re called biscuits, we don’t know why.
Aluminium can be recycled over and over again without getting damaged or degraded.
Compare that to plastic – for a start it can be harder to get the recycled stuff up to the same standards as the new – no problem for our recycling star aluminium.
Plastic is light and takes up loads of space in our van. But we still get paid by the tonne.
The price paid for plastic we had sorted into its different grades would hardly cover the diesel of driving it to the plant given how many van loads it would take to make up a tonne of such light material.
Meanwhile cheap or reasonably priced oil, one of the main ingredients of plastic, is an incentive to make it new.
It’s one of the many challenges ahead for tackling plastic pollution.