The article will discuss the biodegradability of aluminium while also covering aspects such as:
- Steps to recycle
- Comparison with plastics
Is aluminium biodegradable?
Aluminium can not be categorised as biodegradable because of the fact that it is inorganic in nature and can not be degraded by the action of microbes.
When it comes to biodegradation, there are certain requirements or certain prerequisites that must be matched. One of them is that the material must be natural, organic and also eco-friendly.
However, if we explore the case of aluminium, it can be said that the requirements do not match and as a result, aluminium can not be categorised as a biodegradable product or material.
Regardless, the products made from aluminium such as foil or cans will also not be biodegradable and will remain in the environment for hundreds of years.
How long does aluminium take to degrade?
Aluminium takes hundreds of years to degrade. As per studies, it may require more than 200 years for aluminium to degrade.
Some studies assert that aluminium may require around 500 years to degrade. Therefore, we can assume a start and stop limit and finalise that aluminium will degrade in about 200-500 years.
What is the best way to dispose of aluminium?
Be it aluminium foil or aluminium cans, it is a common question what is the best way to dispose of aluminium products because it is a known fact now that aluminium will not degrade by microbes and therefore, it will be unwise to discard aluminium in regular trash cans.
The best way, therefore, to dispose of aluminium, is to recycle the aluminium products. It is a known fact that many non-biodegradable materials can be easily recycled.
For instance, let us take the example of plastics. Plastics are also not biodegradable in nature and therefore can not be disposed of in regular trash cans and that is the main reason it is asserted that plastics must be recycled to redeem the environment of its health and glory.
When non-biodegradable materials such as aluminium or plastics are recycled, there are many benefits ensured such as better waste management, better resource management, and reduced use of non-renewable resources.
The edge that comes along with the recycling of aluminium is that it can be recycled as many times as liked or preferred. This means that if aluminium is recycled properly, hypothetically, there will be no waste produced from aluminium products usage.
How to recycle aluminium?
Let us, therefore, the ways through which aluminium can be recycled. In the last section, we rummaged on the basics and theories of aluminium recycling and the benefits ensured by the recycling of aluminium.
In this section, we will concern ourselves only with the practicalities of recycling aluminium. When it comes to that, there is not much you need to do. All you need to do is to ensure that aluminium is taken to the nearest local recycling centres.
This can be done in a variety of ways. One way of doing it is to dispose of aluminium products in recycling bins so that the recycling facilities may pick up aluminium products for recycling.
You can also contact the local recycling centres and schedule a pick-up or you can also go a step beyond and drop off the aluminium products at the nearby recycling centres.
However, you need to ensure that the aluminium products such as cans et cetera are properly cleaned or washed and there is no sort of contamination at all.
You also need to ensure that aluminium products are not mixed with other products that can not be recycled. This can also put the recycling facilities at risk of being damaged or non-functional.
Is aluminium better than plastics?
In many cases, there is a competitor to aluminium which is plastics. Therefore, it is commonly inquired which is more eco-friendly so that appropriate consumer behaviour may be triggered.
Therefore, let us compare aluminium products such as aluminium cans with plastic products such as plastic bottles to build a comparative narrative on the eco-friendliness of aluminium.
As regards production, plastic bottles take the win. It is studied that plastic bottles require less energy because the smelting process of aluminium cans takes a great toll on the environment.
Therefore, in terms of the production process, aluminium cans will lead to a greater release of greenhouse gases and will lead to fervent environmental problems such as carbon footprint, pollution and global warming.
Here also, plastic bottles take the win. This stance can be backed up by a number of points that include:
- Plastic bottles are cheaper as compared to aluminium cans
- Plastic bottles can be reused because of their lid whereas, aluminium cans once opened, will have to be used to the full
- Plastic bottles have a better grip and accessibility as compared to aluminium cans
In terms of disposal options, aluminium cans take the win. This is because aluminium cans can be recycled easily and endlessly. There is no limit to the number of times aluminium cans can be recycled.
On the other hand, plastic bottles are not that easily recycled. Also, there is greater energy required and employed when it comes to the recycling of plastic bottles.
Because of this, the US EPA estimated that aluminium cans have about 50-70% of recycled content, whereas, in the case of plastic bottles, it is only 3%.
Is aluminium eco-friendly? (5 factors that make aluminium non-eco-friendly)
Let us ask the main question which is whether aluminium is eco-friendly or not. Aluminium can not be regarded as eco-friendly because of the reasons:
- Aluminium is non-biodegradable
- Aluminium contributes to the waste problem
- Aluminium is made from an energy-intensive process
- The smelting of Aluminium is hazardous to the environment
- Aluminium is dependent on mining which does harm the environment and also the people
However, one factor that makes aluminium eco-friendly is its recycling aspect of it. It can be recycled indefinitely and therefore if people and consumers behave accordingly, the environment can be saved from the detrimental impacts of aluminium just jotted.
Therefore, it all rests on behaviour attitudes and inclinations. When those are made green, there will be decreased detrimental effects on the environment.
It is concluded that aluminium is not biodegradable because it is inorganic in nature and can not be degraded by the action of microbes.
The best way, therefore, to dispose of aluminium, is to recycle the aluminium products. The edge that comes along with the recycling of aluminium is that it can be recycled as many times as liked or preferred. This means that if aluminium is recycled properly, hypothetically, there will be no waste produced from aluminium products usage.
The article also built a comparative perspective on the eco-friendliness of aluminium with plastics and also built a stance on the sustainability status of aluminium.
- Conserve Energy Future. Are Aluminium cans recyclable? (7 ways to reuse them). Retrieved from: https://www.conserve-energy-future.com/are-aluminum-cans-recyclable.php#Can_You_Recycle_Aluminum_for_Cash
- Cullor, Ravyn. (January 19, 2022). Aluminium packaging is endlessly recyclable, but malleable can have supply chain concerns. Retrieved from: https://www.cosmeticsdesign.com/Article/2022/01/19/Pros-and-cons-of-aluminum-packaging
- (October 23, 2019). Aluminium cans or plastic bottles? Retrieved from: https://learningenglish.voanews.com/a/aluminum-cans-or-plastic-bottles-/5130092.html