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Steel cans


By LaVerne C. Paulson

Fri, Dec 28th, 2012
Posted in All Home & Garden

Tin cans , as we know them, are not made of tin, but are really made of steel. But then, old habits are hard to break. Tin cans have been around since 1810. Soup, juice, vegetables, meat, coffee, evaporated milk, sardines, pet food, and pork and beans, are just a few of the canned items we purchase. Perhaps, the second best thing about tin cans is they don’t usually break when you drop them. To a recycler, their finest quality is the fact that they are highly recyclable.

The most common recycled metal product made with iron is the steel food can. These cans are 99 percent steel. They are made of steel for strength, but are coated with tin to stabilize the flavors of the can’s contents. Without this coating, the food in the can would most likely taste of metal. If you remove the label from a can after you have removed the food, you will notice the inside of almost all cans is a different color that the outside. Food is actually cooked in the steel can during the canning process. All steel food and beverage cans are 100 percent recyclable including bi-metal cans, the ones with the steel bodies and the aluminum ends.

When a steel can is recycled, it is shredded and run through a series of washing solutions and filtered. Since steel food cans contain both steel and tin, the recycling process (melting and filtering) must separate the molten tin and steel by “detinning.” This process yields high-grade steel and tin, and new steel cans with a shiny, thin tin coating are produced.

The cans with the aluminum ends are also melted and made into new steel. However, the aluminum is not separated from the recycled steel, as is the tin, but actually enhances the process of making new steel cans. Recycled steel is used to build cars, trucks, bridges, trains, train tracks, jets, dumpsters, fences, siding and roofs for buildings, and the nuts and bolts that hold them together.

The recycling of steel cans is quite beneficial. It takes 75 percent less energy to recycle steel than to produce steel from iron ore. For every pound of steel recycled, the energy it takes to light a 60 watt light bulb for more than 26 hours is saved. Through recycling, the steel industry saves an average of 600 trillion BTU each year. That is enough energy to electrically power a few more than 18 million homes.

You may want to keep one or two of these cans around, perhaps as a cutworm collar to guard your tender tomatoes or a night crawler container just for old time’s sake, but the rest of them should find their way here to the Resource Recovery Center, not the landfill. And if you want to call them tin cans, very few people will be offended. If you call the steel cans, very few people will know what you mean.

This interesting piece of information came across by desk a few days ago. I think this is an appropriate time to share it with you. Minnesota generates 25 percent of its waste between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. This is perhaps a good time to try to reduce, reuse, and recycle.

Thanks for making 2012 a great year of recycling. We have accomplished a lot. I wish you all the best for the coming year as we strive to raise the recycling rate of Fillmore County even more. You do care....and it shows.

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