1. Collection Many things are made from aluminium, but the most common are cans. Aluminium cans are collected for recycling from people’s homes, recycling sites and businesses.
2. Sorting Cans made from steel are removed by a magnet over the conveyor belt. As steel is a ferrous metal, these cans are picked up by the magnet and processed separately. Cans made from aluminium, a non-ferrous metal, are not magnetic.
3. Baling and compressing The aluminium cans are then crushed and compressed to form bales, and transported to an aluminium recycling facility.
4. Shredding and cleaning The cans are shredded into small pieces about the size of a 50-pence coin. These pieces then pass through another magnet to remove any remaining steel or other ferrous metals.
The shredded aluminium is then passed through hot air (at 500°C), which removes any paint coating or print.
5. Melting The hot cans go straight to a furnace, where they are melted at a temperature of 700°C. Then the liquid (molten) aluminium is transferred to a holding furnace – to eliminate any remaining contaminants – and on to a degasser that removes any gas.
6. New aluminium The liquid aluminium is poured into cooled rectangular-shaped moulds. Cooling turns the aluminium back into a solid metal. These moulded shapes are called ingots. A saw trims the ends of the aluminium ingots so they are squared, ready for transport to a rolling facility. There the ingots will be rolled into large sheets of aluminium to be made back into cans.