Aluminum cans! Greatest invention since sliced bread! Where would we be without them? Coors began the use of aluminum cans in 1959. (You needed a “church key” to open those.) More than 60 years later, aluminum cans are the most sustainable beverage package and are infinitely recyclable, plus they contain 73% recycled content, more than three times the amount in a glass or plastic bottle. Aluminum cans are recycled over and over again in a true “closed-loop” recycling process. So, hurray for aluminum cans, right?
Right! But, let’s keep in mind how those cans are recycled. In most cases, the cans are baled, sent to recyclers, shredded, smelted along with thousands of other cans, and formed into an ingot, which then goes to the can manufacturer. Although the process may take longer, recycled cans can become new beverage cans we can buy, drink, and recycle again in as little as sixty days.
But, back to baling. That’s what takes place at the facilities we serve and what we want to focus on here. Those balers get sticky and icky and need to have a bath occasionally. Where does that wash water go? It’s imperative that the wash water not be allowed to run to ground, especially since the advent of the COVID-19 crisis. There is no way to tell where those cans have been, who drank out of them, whether or not that person was healthy, and whether or not the cleaning agent you’ve used to clean the baler (if one was used at all) is capable of killing the virus. There is also the issue of whether or not the cleaning agent itself might affect groundwater quality or stormwater runoff. Bottom line? The sanitary sewer is the only acceptable method of disposing of the water from washing balers used to bale aluminum cans.