National Waste & Recycling Association

The National Waste & Recycling Association is the trade association that represents the private sector solid waste and recycling industry. Visit and learn more the Association at wasterecycling.org.

Begin with the Bin is a public education resource developed by the National Waste & Recycling Association.

The National Waste & Recycling Association is located at:
4301 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20008
T: 800-424-2869, 202-244-4700
F: 202-966-4824
E: info@wasterecycling.org
Find us on Google

To use our contact form and to subscribe to our free publications, click here.
Media: Jessica Mayorga at 202-364-3706 or jmayorga@wasterecycling.org.

Begin with the Bin

Begin with the Bin is a public education resource developed by the National Waste & Recycling Association. The site offers information and resources related to the waste and recycling industries. Visit and learn more at beginwiththebin.org.

Recycling Aluminum

What do you need to know about recycling aluminum?

Americans use over 93 billion cans, or 300 per person, each year. We use aluminum in many other products – including wrapping foil, semi-rigid packages like pie plates, and flexible packaging like cigarette foils and candy wrappers. Nearly 27 percent of the aluminum used in America goes into packaging.

Recycling aluminum saves significant amounts of energy because it requires only a fraction (4 percent) of the energy needed to make virgin aluminum. Additionally, producing new aluminum products from recycled aluminum material emits only 5 percent of the carbon dioxide released when raw aluminum is manufactured. Recycling aluminum is an environmentally conscious way to reuse materials, preserving more of the planet’s natural resources.

How do old aluminum cans become new aluminum cans?

The journey begins when old aluminum cans are taken to an aluminum reclamation plant where they are shredded into potato-chip sized pieces and fed into a melting furnace. The molten aluminum is gradually hardened into rectangular slabs and then formed into thin sheets. The reclaimed metal is most often used to produce new aluminum cans. This is an example of closed-loop recycling where the initial product/material is remade into the same product.

Aluminum does not lose significant quality over time, so recycling it is a smart and environmentally efficient practice.

The Numbers: Aluminum

  • Aluminum cans generated in 2012: 91.9 billion / Aluminum cans recycled: 61.6 billion (67%)
  • Aluminum Generated per person annually: 12.3 lbs (9.32 lbs of cans; 2.98 lbs of foil)
  • Source reduction: In 2011, 35 cans could be made from a pound of aluminum, up from 22 cans in 1972.