Steel & Aluminium Recycling

History of Food Tins

The tin can was patented in 1810 by British merchant Peter Durand, based on experimental food preservation work in glass containers by the French inventor Nicholas Appert the year before. In the late 18th century, the French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte offered a prize to anyone who could come up with a new way to preserve food. Traditional methods of preserving food did not keep it edible for long enough to reach the French armies.

The prize was won by Nicolas Appert, who had discovered that heating food to high temperatures inside sealed glass jars stopped it from 'going off. It was then discovered that the process worked as well with tinned iron canisters. These had the advantage of being lighter, easier to seal and less prone to damage during transportation and storage - and so the food can was born. The iron was coated with a fine layer of tin to stop it from rusting. Cans continue to be used mainly by the army and navy. The first cans were expensive, because they were made by hand and a good tinsmith could only manufacture six to ten a day. But in spite of these drawbacks, their convenience was invaluable and unprecedented. The first automated production lines produced around six cans an hour. Today's sophisticated production lines can produce in excess of 1,500 cans a minute.

History of Beverage Cans

The early metal beverage can was made out of steel. In the 1930s, after a successful history with storing food, metal cans were used to store beverages. Starting first with beer and then not long after that sodas. Cans were typically formed as cylinders, having a flat top and bottom. These would become known as "punch top" cans, as they required a opener tool referred to as a churchkey, typically a wedge shaped metal cutter that latched onto the top rim for leverage where lifting it by hand would cut a triangular opening at the top edge of the can. In 1959, Ermal Fraze devised a can-opening method that would come to dominate the canned beverage market. His invention was the "pull-tab". This eliminated the need for a separate opener, by attaching an aluminium pull-ring lever with a rivet to a pre-scored wedge-shaped tab section of the can top. It was like having an opener tool built into every can

History of Aluminium

Aluminium is the third most abundant element comprising about 8% of the Earth's crust. Despite this fact, it was only discovered in 1807 by Sir Humphrey Davy, who originally called it alumium. Davy identified it in alum, but it was not until 1825 when Danish physicist and chemist Hans Christian Ørsted produced the first samples of pure aluminium by heating potassium amalgam with anhydrous aluminium chloride. It was not until the late 1880's when processes were developed that could produce commercial quantities of aluminium. With commercial smelting now a reality and the price of aluminium dropping, aluminium products have become a reality.

Difference between Aluminium and Tin

Tin cans are heavier than aluminium cans and are more durable. Tin cans are also highly resistant to the corrosive properties of acidic foods, like tomatoes. However, tin cans are less efficient for recycling than aluminium. The money saved from recycling aluminium rather than processing new aluminium is enough to pay to recycle and collect aluminium cans, and is enough to help cover the costs of recycling containers that are more difficult to process, such as plastic and glass.

Recycling Process

  1. Your cans and tins are brought to a recycle center,
  2. At a recycling plant the condensed cans and tins are shredded, crushed and stripped of their inside and outside decorations through a burning process.
  3. Then, the potato chip-sized pieces of can are loaded into melting furnaces, where the recycled steel is blended with new steel. The melted steel is cooled and formed into block called an ingot.
  4. The molten steel is then poured into 25-foot long ingots that weigh over 14 000kg. The ingots are fed into rolling mills that reduce the thickness of the metal from 20 inches to sheets one-hundredth of an inch thick.
  5. This metal is then coiled and shipped to can makers, who produce can bodies and lids. They, in turn, deliver cans to beverage companies for filling.
  6. The new cans are ready to return to store shelves in as little as 60 days, only to go through the entire recycling process again!


  • Aluminium cans can be recycled and ready to use in just 6 weeks.
  • A steel mill using recycled scrap reduces water pollution, air pollution, and mining waste by about 70 percent.
  • Recycling one aluminium can saves enough energy to run a 100 watt light bulb for 20 hours, a computer for 3 hours, and a TV for 2 hours.
  • Aluminium cans distinguish themselves as the most recycled and most recyclable beverage container in the world. An awesome 105,784 cans are recycled every minute nationwide
  • In Southern Africa, over two billion steel beverage cans – beer, soft drinks, cider, fruit juices and others – are consumed every year. The current recovery rate for Southern Africa is 69%.

Our Process

You begin the recycling process when you set apart your cans, tins and aluminium cans from your household garbage and place it into the Red bags we provide to you for our weekly collection. We combine your cans and tins with cans and tins from other households and sell them to a dealer who, because of the volume of material purchased, often operates out of a storage warehouse. The dealer then sells quantities of cans, tins and aluminium cans to a user. This is where the actual recycling-manufacturing one product into a new product--takes place.