What are aluminium cans made from?

Aluminium is made from a naturally occurring substance called alumina, or aluminium oxide, which is made up of a mixture of aluminium and oxygen. It is found naturally in the rock Bauxite and extracted using chemicals. To get pure aluminium, the alumina has to be heated to a very high temperature (around 960°​C) then a strong electric current is passed through it. The melted aluminium sinks to the bottom and can be separated. This whole process uses up a lot of energy.

What are the benefits of recycling aluminium cans?

  • Providing a useful material – aluminium can be recycled endlessly, recycled aluminium cans could end up being used to make aeroplanes!
  • Saving energy – recycling aluminium cans means we don’t have to use huge amounts of energy to get small amounts of metal from rock.

Wow fact: Compared to the energy needed to create it from scratch, recycling one aluminium can saves enough energy to run a TV for 3 hours.

How are aluminium cans recycled?

  • Cans are collected from homes and recycling banks.
  • They are taken to a recycling depot where a huge magnet is used to separate steel cans from aluminium cans.
  • Aluminium is then crushed and baled.
  • The bales are shredded into tiny pieces which are treated to remove contaminants and their protective varnish.
  • The shreds are melted and cast into ingots, the ingots are then chilled and cut into squares.
  • The aluminium is rolled out into thin sheets ready to be used again.

Where can you recycle aluminium cans?

​Aluminium cans in Devon are collected from your home by your local Council using a recycling bin, box or bag. Did you know that you can also recycle empty aerosol cans in lots of areas? To find out more about what and where you can recycle in your area click here.


To increase understanding of how we use our worlds resources, take a look into our Material World lesson plans.