Trash and Recycling

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How Metal Cans Are Recycled

Your metal cans are separated at the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) by a magnet. The cans that have iron in them stick to the magnet and go on a different conveyor from the non-iron (aluminum) cans. The aluminum and tin cans get baled and trucked to a smelting plant.

Scrap Metal PileAt the smelting plant, the cans get shredded and melted down into a molten liquid. The molten liquid looks similar to lava. The liquid metal is poured into a mold where it cools and hardens into a solid metal bar. These solid bars are sold to manufacturers who re-melt them and make their new metal products.

It is important to recycle cans because the metal that is used to make cans comes from digging out the earth. In the excavated dirt are tiny pieces of metal called ore. The ore is separated from the dirt by a screen. Sort of like when you sieve sand at the beach looking for tiny shells or rocks. Big machines have to dig out a hole the size of a small car to get enough metal to make just one can.

When steel cans are recycled, they can become a car, a refrigerator, a bridge, or a toy. When you go home today, find out how many things in your house stick to a magnet. Anything that sticks to a magnet is made out of steel. Anything made out of steel is already recycled or can be recycled over and over!

Fun Fact: The energy saved from recycling one aluminum can will operate a T.V. for three hours.