Cats have it pretty good with their nine lives, but an aluminium can has them beat by a long shot. Jason Brown is managing director of Island Recycling — a member of the DECCO Consortium selected as preferred bidder for Grand Cayman’s integrated solid waste management system contract. He says that unlike plastic and paper, aluminium does not lose quality during the recycling process, which means it can be recycled endlessly.
“Plastic can be recycled seven to nine times and paper can be recycled four to six times, but metal and glass can be recycled infinitely,” he says.
“That is, as long as they don’t end up in the landfill instead of the recycling bin.”
A can of soda purchased today is typically made up from of as much as 50 per cent recycled aluminium.
Although aluminium has a higher average recycling rate than most other recyclables — as much as 60 per cent globally and over 90 per cent in some countries — it is estimated that Americans throw out more than $700 million worth of aluminium cans every year.
“Aluminium takes about 500 years to oxidise in a landfill, but can be recycled into a new product in as little as 60 days,” Brown says. “This is what we call ‘closed loop’ recycling because the old products are used to make new ones. But, unless you recycle that can, the loop cannot close.”
Aluminium cans are easily recycled on Grand Cayman. “We crush the aluminium into cubes called bales, pack them into a shipping container and send them to recycling facilities overseas, where they are made into new products,” Brown says.
Recycling bins for aluminium and tin containers are placed at all supermarkets on Grand Cayman. There is also a drop-off point in Camana Bay for aluminium — as well as glass — in bins located in the parking lot next to the cinema. Private firms such as Junk can arrange for household or commercial collection of materials for recycling.
Although aluminium cans make up the majority of aluminium recyclables, all products made of aluminium can be recycled.
“Whether it’s a soda can, a tin of dog food, a baking tray, even tin foil, all aluminium products can be recycled,” Brown says.
“Just make sure they are all clean before putting them in the recycling bin!”
To determine if a can is made of aluminium, Brown suggests to first look at it; aluminium cans are typically lighter in weight and shinier than steel.
But that there is an easy way to make certain. “Around 75 per cent of drink cans are made of aluminium, but if you’re not sure, you can always test it with a magnet,” Brown says. “If the magnet doesn’t stick, it’s aluminium.”