Volume 3 - Summer 2009

Life Cycle Of A Pop Can

Life Cycle Inventory refers to the life story of a product: where it comes from, how it’s made, what it’s used for, how it’s disposed of and – maybe most importantly – what impact it has on the earth.

As consumers, we’re beginning to understand that we’re part of the life cycle of the products we buy.

Take a can of pop, for instance. We play a large role in its life cycle when we decide to purchase it. But even more significant is how to dispose of it. Curious about the life cycle of a pop can? Let’s take a look …

Pop cans are made of aluminium. Aluminium begins with bauxite, a mineral which is stripmined from surface land in Australia, Brazil, Guinea and South America. The bauxite is shipped to smelters where aluminium is extracted using a huge amount of energy. (Each year, in fact, the aluminium industry uses as much electricity as the entire continent of Africa!)

The aluminium is cast, made into sheets and then fabricated into cans. The cans are cleaned, painted and filled with beverages.

While it’s a simple enough process, the method of getting the aluminium can change the life cycle of a pop can quite significantly.

Because aluminium can be recycled over and over again without degrading, we can reuse it rather than creating it new. This can bring massive energy savings, since it takes 95 percent less energy to produce new aluminium from discarded aluminium than from raw materials. In fact, recycling just one aluminium can saves enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for 20 hours.

So what seems like an insignificant act – purchasing and tossing out a pop can – really can have a very significant impact on the earth.

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