What is Aluminium and its properties – Aluminium recycling steps, advantages, disadvantages & facts

As we know, when we say recycling, there are many things that can undergo recycling to give us new product. But the process of each recycling may differ. In order to identify it, we need to understand the properties of the thing that need to be recycled and thus decide the steps. Here, we shall look into properties of aluminium, steps of recycling it, advantages and disadvantages of aluminium recycling. Facts about its recycling have been summed up in the end.

 

What is Aluminium?

Aluminium is a light weight whitish metal. It is the third most common metal found on the earth’s surface. The molecular formula of aluminium is “Al” and its atomic number is 13.  It is a non magnetic ductile metal. Aluminium was discovered by Hans Oersted in 1825. This name was derived from the Latin word “alumen” which means bitter salt. Aluminium is never found in its elementary state. It is always found as oxides or silicates because it easily mixes with oxygen.

 

PROPERTIES OF ALUMINIUM

  • It is low in density and light weight.
  • It is non-toxic and thermal conductivity is high.
  • It is a good conductor of electricity.
  • It is often used as an alloy.
  • It is soft and malleable.
  • It is abundantly found on the earth’s surface.
  • It is non-magnetic and non-sparking.
  • It is corrosion resistance.
  • It acts as an excellent reflector due to it silvery shine.

 

ALUMINIUM RECYCLING

Aluminium recycling is a process of collecting waste or scrap aluminium and reprocessing it into a new useful product. aluminium is one of the most commonly recycled items. The process includes collection of scrap, sorting, shredding, de-coating, melting of aluminium and finally transportation.

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STEPS IN ALUMINIUM PROCESSING

  1. Collection of scrap :
    This is the first step in the process of recycling. Waste and thrown away aluminium s collected from streets, waste dumping areas and then transported to the industries.
  2. Sorting of aluminium :
    This is a major process in aluminium recycling. Aluminium, steel and other metals products are carefully sorted and properly cleaned.
  3. Shredding :
    After proper cleaning of aluminium, these are put into conveyor belt and it is shredded. The shredder cuts these tiny bits so that it can be easily melted.
  4. Passing beneath magnets :
    The shredded aluminium pieces are now passed beneath magnets so that traces of other metals can be completely removed. Since most of the metals like steel and others are magnetic, it can be easily removed through this process. Thus there is a surety that the shredded bits are purely aluminium.
  5. De-coating :
    This is an important step in the process of recycling. All sorts of decorations, paints, stickers, gum and other coating in aluminium are completely removed in this process.  This procedure is done by specialized decoater machines.
  6. Into the furnace :
    Now the cleaned and shredded bits of aluminium are put into a furnace and it is melted. After it is completely melted, chemicals are added to get the correct consistency. After this procedure, all the impurities will float on top and this layer is known as dross. This is now removed using specialized equipments.
  7. Holding furnace :
    The holding furnace is equipment where the molten aluminium is transferred. Now the liquid aluminium is turned into ingots. The furnace tilts and pours the liquid into different molds of drinking cans. These are further cooled.
  8. Transportation :
    This is the final step in the recycling process. These are taken to the respective packing ares and are packed and transported to the respective factories for labeling and filling. This in turn returns to the shops for sale to the consumers.
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ADVANTAGES OF ALUMINIUM RECYCLING

  • Prevents depletion :
    Aluminium is a naturally occurring metal that is extracted from the earth’s surface. Since its being continuously recycled, the mining for this metal can be reduced considerably. This prevents depletion of the resource.
  • Saves energy :
    Very less energy is used in recycling aluminium when compared to making new ones. This considerable reduces the greenhouse gas emission which is beneficial to the environment as a whole. This in turn reduces global warming and drastic change in climate. This saves the biodiversity as a whole.
  • Reduces landfills :
    Landfills are a global issue effecting mankind. All sorts of trash are dumped which causes serious environmental and health issues. Recycling can reduce the amount of landfills considerably. Since most of the aluminium is being recycled, the amount of aluminium in landfills has also reduced. Thus recycling aluminium is really beneficial.
  • Recycled innumerable times :
    One of the most striking properties of aluminium is that it can be recycled innumerable times without losing its quality. It can be recycled because aluminium is light weight. It is a versatile metal. The quality can also be maintained which means that the value of aluminium will be maintained throughout.
  • Created job opportunities :
    A lot of job opportunities are created in the recycling industry. Since recycling is a lengthy process, a lot of job opportunities are created right from picking up of cans till transportation. A lot of people depend on the recycling industry for their daily livelihood.

 

DISADVANTAGES OF ALUMINIUM RECYCLING

  • Pollutants :
    A lot of waste materials are generated during the process aluminium recycling. The dross formed is impurities that are flushed out that can cause pollution and contamination.
  • No technical advancement :
    Traditional and old techniques are still been used and practices in the recycling industry. Generally it is seen that the overall process of recycling is ineffective.
  • Lacks quality :
    The recycled material usually lacks quality as there are no proper checks in the ingredients added. Low quality materials and chemicals are blended and new products are produced which will lead to the low quality of the final product. so good quality products are not guaranteed.
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FACTS ABOUT ALUMINIUM RECYCLING

  • More than 80% of the aluminium can be recycled.
  • Aluminium can be recycled to make cans, foils, window frames, cabinets, car components and food trays.
  • Recycling aluminium takes 95% less energy than producing a new one.
  • If aluminium goes to landfills, it will take atleast 600 years to get oxidized.
  • Recycling of 1 aluminium can save energy to run a television for atleast for three hours.
  • It takes at least 60 days to recycle aluminium.
  • One ton of recycled aluminium saves 1660 gallons of oil.
  • Aluminium is the most valuable stuff in the bins.
  • Aluminium foil can be recycled to make vehicle parts.

To conclude, aluminum plays an important role in the recycling industry. It is source of livelihood to many. The most striking part of aluminium is that it can be recycle innumerable times. The input of scrap aluminium and the output from recycling is the same. Not much wastage occurs in the process.  This is very useful and proves to be economical too. Recycling plays an important role in reducing the contamination caused due to landfills. This is beneficial to the environment as whole. Even though a lot of aluminium is recycled, a lot more is still to be recycled. Proper measures should be taken to see to that all available scrap should reach recycling centers. Awareness should be created so that all the people will have proper knowledge about the importance of recycling of aluminium. So to conclude lets all join together and encourage recycling so as to reduce pollution and save mother earth.