As you know, there are various awareness campaigns throughout the year – everything from National Zero Waste Week (hurrah) to Vegan week to Aids awareness days. But did you know that February 19th is National Tin Can Day? It might seem a little silly to have a day in praise of the tin can, but look at how it’s increased our ability to preserve foods and where would a University student be without a tin of baked beans in their kitchen cupboard?
Tin cans used for food storage are usually made of tin coated steel or aluminium however, some of the early cans were sealed with lead soldering, which funnily enough, resulted in lead poisoning. The tin can was first patented in 1810. Apparently, Napoleon offered a prize for a successful method of preserving food for his armies who were getting weak due to lack of food.
If lead poisoning isn’t enough to make the effort seem less than worthwhile, the first can opener wasn’t designed until 50 years after the first tin cans were manufactured! Back in the good old days you had to use knives, chisels or even rocks to puncture your tin and reach the delicious contents.
1 million cans a day
When the first tin cans were produced in the US, the best craftsmen could produce up to 60 can a day. Nowadays, production lines are manufacturing over one million cans per day.
Tin can recycling
Steel and aluminium cans are one of the easiest materials to recycle. Many local authorities collect them from curb sides or provide bring banks for recycling and it’s really worth the effort to recycle as many as you are able.
Metals, unlike many other materials such as paper, can be recycled indefinitely without loosing any of their properties. Not only that, but the processes used to mine bauxite to make aluminium products uses a large amount of energy and corrodes the earth. According to Tuft’s University, the mining of bauxite destroys more of the earth’s surface than the mining of any other ore.
Recycling aluminium on the other hand, requires only 5% of the energy and produces only 5% of the CO2 emissions compared to primary production plus it reduces waste going to landfill. Aluminium can be recycled indefinitely, as reprocessing does not damage its structure. Aluminium is also the most cost-effective material to recycle.
Steel is mined from an ore which is stripped in a blast furnace to reduce it to pig iron that can then be used in steel production. Each household uses approximately 600 steel cans per year and just one recycled tin can would save enough energy to power a television for 3 hours.
- 51,000 tonnes of aluminium ends up as packaging in the US each year.
- If all cans in the United States were recycled, we would need 14 million fewer dustbins.
- $49,075,200.00 worth of aluminium is thrown away each year.
- Aluminium cans can be recycled and ready to use in just 6 weeks.
Recycle your cans
So there we go – the use of tin cans for food storage has made our food cupboards unrecognisable from 150 years ago. Remember that next time you tuck into some backed beans or a delightful tin of Spam and remember to recycle your cans too!