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Making Cans Into Cars

That soup can you just recycled might not end up back on the shelf at a grocery store. Instead, it could end up as a part of a new Ford F-150.

Ford’s Automated Recycling Vacuum System

Ford is one of many automotive companies looking to create more sustainable materials for their cars, and it is doing that by using “up-cycled” aluminum, as in repurposing aluminum with high-grade materials to produce their cars.

“Not only does this make sound business sense,” Chip Conrad, a Ford stamping engineer, says in a press release for Ford, “it’s helping Ford reduce its environmental impact.”

Under Ford’s new recycling methods, one factory can go through up to five million pounds a week of recycled aluminum.

What makes aluminum so valuable for Ford, as it notes in a 2016/17 sustainability report, is its ability to be “reused many times without loss of quality, and recycling aluminum requires 95 percent less energy than refining raw aluminum.”

So, how does Ford, and other companies, receive the recycled aluminum that they can later use to build their cars?

Novelis, a leading producer of flat-rolled aluminum, works alongside local recycling facilities to gather up all of those soup cans, soda cans, and other recycled aluminum products, to create a variety of aluminum products to best serve their different automotive clients.

A 2017 Novelis Fact Sheet (Courtesy of Novelis)

With these recycled aluminum products, it helps the automotive companies produce cheaper and more sustainable cars, but is continuously helping cut down on harmful greenhouse gas emissions and keeping more waste out of landfills.

fact sheet put out by Novelis earlier this month detailed that 95% fewer greenhouse gas emissions were produced with their aluminum recycling processes, and that the company recycles approximately 60 billion beverage cans annually.

Aluminum serves as one of many different materials that can be recycled and repurposed for different industries, but it is one material that is 100% recyclable and sustainable.

The Aluminum Association, the leading voice of the aluminum industry based in Washington D.C., works in large part to show the sustainability efforts put forth by those taking part in aluminum recycling.

“Recycling aluminum saves more than 90 percent of the energy that would be needed to create a comparable amount of the metal from raw materials,” as quoted from the Aluminum Association’s website. “Tossing away an aluminum can wastes as much energy as pouring out half of that can’s volume of gasoline. Nearly 75 percent of all aluminum produced is still in use today.”

With the current trend of aluminum recycling, that next can of Coke you buy may become someone’s car.

By Reann Huber

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