RECYCLING ALUMINIUM FOIL AND OTHER HOUSEHOLD METALS
By Wong Ee Lynn
The Green Living SIG was recently asked the following question at an MNS event: “Can aluminium foil be recycled?”
Pure aluminium foil can be recycled and will be accepted by recycling collection centres together with your aluminium cans. Foil items can include:
• kitchen foil
• foil milk bottle tops
• baking and freezing trays
• takeaway and ready-meal containers
Silver-look packaging such as snack and potato chip packets and chocolate wrappings CANNOT be recycled.
To determine if something is aluminium, you can do the Scrunch Test: If the foil can be crushed or scrunched up, and does not spring back into shape, it is probably aluminium. If it bounces back, then it is plastic, NOT aluminium. Foil wrapping such as chocolate wrappers and shiny giftwrap that have a paper underside are foil-coated paper and CANNOT be recycled.
Please make sure all aluminium foil and containers are clean and free of oil and food residue before being recycled.
WHY RECYCLE ALUMINIUM?
Aluminium is produced from bauxite, a clay-like ore that is rich in aluminium compounds. The aluminium is only found as a compound called alumina, which is a hard material consisting of aluminium combined with oxygen. This alumina has to be stripped of its oxygen in order to free the aluminium. The alumina is dissolved in a molten salt at a reduction plant and a powerful electric current is run though the liquid to separate the aluminium from the oxygen. This process uses large quantities of energy.
Recycling 1kg of aluminium saves up to 6kg of bauxite, 4kg of chemical products and 14 kWh of electricity.
Recycling aluminium requires only 5% of the energy and produces only 5% of the CO2 emissions as compared with primary production and reduces the waste going to landfill. Aluminium can be recycled indefinitely, as reprocessing does not damage its structure. Aluminium is also the most cost-effective material to recycle.
A recycled aluminium can saves enough energy to run a television for 3 hours.
Although present in smaller quantities - all metals, including nickel, copper, silver, gold, lead, brass and more, can be recycled. Given their recognised value, a smaller quantity of these metals are in circulation. However, despite the reliance on these metals by specific industries, eg. electronics, their presence is often neglected when householders dispose of items.