How we’ve cleaned up Used Beverage Can recycling

As the most established independent extrusion recycler in the UK, we are no strangers to broadening the scope of aluminium recycling and pushing the boundaries for all types of aluminium, ranging from drinks cans to extrusion scrap.

And as part of this, we frequently rise to the challenge of overcoming everyday aluminium recycling issues, which includes a problem that has plagued us for several years – recycling Used Beverage Cans (UBCs) that are contaminated by waste materials, particularly plastic. This is due to the fact widgets are often found in draft beer cans, as well as steel contaminants and, believe it or not, grains of sand.

aluminium recycling

The challenge – in further detail

UBC remelts struggle to work with aluminium cans provided by most material recycling facilities due to the high percentage of contamination, which must be removed before the cans are de-lacquered.

We saw this challenge as being a significant barrier within the UK aluminium can recycling market, and have leveraged our extensive experience and expertise to develop an industry-first solution that has increased the throughput of cleaner cans, once and for all.

The solution

We have developed a unique shredding process that eliminates the contamination. Our approach involved fine-tuning our existing systems to enable them to not only handle new production material, but post-consumer material, which contains waste plastics and other contaminants, such as brass locks, zinc handles and stainless steel hinges.

The double shredding process enables the materials to be fractured and the waste to be cut away. What’s left is then laid on to a fine screen and separated even further using x-ray technology. In turn, a much higher percentage of aluminium is now being produced in a state that is ready for use by UK remelts.

The result

Since our new x-ray unit has been installed, we’ve reported industry-leading results for our clients. Smaller fragments are being captured at 99% pure aluminium, which is far more appealing to smelters and, of course, far more valuable.

Metal losses are lessened by the shredding process and run between 12 and 15%, depending on individual profiles, whereas, if the material is melted, losses are between 20 and 25% due to the build-up of dross in the furnace.

“Shredding also reduces the Co2 and gases produced in the melting process,” explains our Commercial Manager, Ed George.

Image of an aluminium recycling x-ray machine

We can process the material to a much higher grade, enabling the cans to feed directly into the melting systems, thanks to our state-of-the-art on-site technology.

As a result, we have made a significant impact on aluminium can recycling over the last 20 years, so much so, our processes have been replicated in several countries. They have also enabled us to provide UK mills with higher volumes of UBC (an additional 100 tonnes a month). 

By changing some of the input material for a lower grade, containing up to 60% contamination, we are still able to process the material and sort the element back into UBC through our pre-sort system,” adds Ed.

We are the only company with the ability to screen and separate ferrous and non-ferrous material, as well as light and heavy metals. We have worked hard to turn this widespread aluminium recycling challenge on its head and develop a solution that is environmentally and financially viable.”

For more information about our UBC recycling capabilities or to discuss your aluminium recycling requirements with us, email ed.george@alutrade.com