What is Aluminium?

What do we use Aluminium for?

Aluminium is a type of metal. It has only been in use for about a century but is now a very useful and valuable material. Aluminium is used a lot to make drink cans because it is light and unbreakable and is quick to chill.

Aluminium can also be rolled into very thin sheets, called foil. Aluminium foil is used to make takeaway containers, pie cases, milk bottle tops, chocolate wrapping and lids for dairy products. Many people also use foil in their kitchens for cooking and wrapping up food.

Aluminium cans and foil can both be recycled, saving precious resources and energy. In fact, aluminium can be recycled over and over again without losing its quality.

Aluminium has only been used for about a century, but it is quite a common metal today. One of the most popular uses for aluminium is for making drinks cans. Aluminium cans are a great way to store drinks because they are lightweight, unbreakable, and quick to chill.

Although it is a very useful metal, aluminium is difficult to make and uses a lot of resources. This is why we must recycle aluminium as much as we can. Recycling aluminium drinks cans saves up to 95% of the energy used to produce new cans. It also saves natural resources – such as bauxite, which is used to make aluminium ore.

With today’s technology, aluminium can be melted down and recycled into new objects time and time again without losing its quality.

Aluminium is also a very valuable metal – which is why the people who run Cash for Can centres will pay you for all your old aluminium cans. Collecting cans for recycling is a great way to make some pocket money, or raise funds for a charity.

Aluminium and steel cans look very similar to each other, but they should be sorted out before being put in can banks.

Here’s three easy ways to identify aluminium cans from steel cans:

  1. Look for this aluminium symbol on the side of the can:
  2. Test the side of the can with a magnet – if it sticks it’s steel; if not, it’s aluminium.
  3. Look at the bottom of the can – aluminium can bases are shiny, while steel can bases are dull.

We have been able to recycle aluminium cans for quite some time here in the UK, but did you know you can also recycle aluminium foil?

Foil is a very thin sheet of aluminium, great for protecting food. It is commonly used for:

  • Ready meal and takeaway containers, pie cases
  • household wrapping and cooking foil
  • lids for dairy products, such as cream and yoghurt
  • milk bottle tops
  • chocolate foil

Don’t confuse aluminium foil with the metallised plastic film often used for crisp and snack packets, which cannot be recycled. If aluminium foil has been “laminated” – that is, attached to plastic or paper – it also cannot be recycled. Use the scrunch test to discard shiny plastic film: if it springs back when scrunched in the hand, it is not recyclable!

Aluminium cans and foil are collected separately because they are made of different alloys and so are recycled separately. However, many aluminium can banks and buy-back centres also accept aluminium foil for recycling now.

Some of the best quality aluminium made is used to manufacture drink cans and aluminium foil – because it has to be pressed or rolled out so thinly – so it makes sense to recycle this material.

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