Why Crushing Cans Can Make Them Harder to Recycle
Do you take great pleasure in crushing your drinks cans before you put them in the recycling? Although it can be a great stress reliever, crushing the can while you think of your boss at the end of a tough day, it turns out that crushing them might actually prevent them from being recycled.
The warning comes from a director at the Aluminum* Association in the US (*not a typo, just the US spelling), who explains that most waste sorting facilities use a single-stream recycling system, which means that all the waste is mixed together before its sorted. The machinery sorts materials by type and shape, so if you have crushed your can, the machine might not recognise it and will push it into the non-recyclable pile, destined for incineration or landfill.
He added that while many cans are recycled, more than 40 billion cans end up in landfill in the US every single year, which amounts to the loss of a staggering $800 million of materials which could have been used to make new products.
Okay, so that’s what happens in the US, we hear you say, what about the UK?
Well waste management experts say that when recyclables are all put in the same bin, it can make it harder for a crushed can to be separated out at the materials recovery facility. This is because the sorting machines find it easier to detect and sort cans that are in their original size and shape because they have a larger surface area. And this doesn’t just apply to aluminium, it’s the same for steel cans too.
But if you’re a can crusher, there’s a bit of good news. If you place your cans in a separate bin or bag right at the source, it’s fine to crush your cans. As well as being easier to sort for the machines, you’ll be able to fit more materials into your bag or bin, and recycling firms will be able to transport more materials.
If the whole recycling sorting thing is not for you though, leave your cans intact and put them in your recycling bin. You’re still doing good for the planet.
And buy a punch bag if you need to get rid of any boss-related stress!