Aluminum recycling in Corvallis

aluminum can

The Allied Waste newsletter arrived in the mail today. The folks at Allied Waste put together a concise and easy to read mailing called “At Your Disposal.” I was reading the “Curbside Recycling Update” section when I read about the blurb on aluminum recycling.

Aluminum goes to ALCOA on the east coast and is made into aluminum cans again.

I think it is great that aluminum cans from Corvallis, Oregon are being recycled. However, what is the environmental cost for transporting west coast cans to the east coast for processing? The process seems a little counter intuitive to me. I wonder if environmentally conscious recycling / post-consumer recycling processes need to be analyzed…

What do you think?

12 thoughts on “Aluminum recycling in Corvallis”

  1. At the risk of being overly optimistic, aluminum crushes pretty well and is pretty light to begin with, so I wonder if it’s not as costly to transport this amount of volume/mass as we think.

    On the other hand, it doesn’t really matter, since doing it on the West Coast would be cheaper under pretty much any circumstances.

  2. I am thinking along the same lines as Dennis…

    Also, let’s not rush to assume that another processing plant on the west coast would have any less of an impact on the environment/be any more cost effective than a truck or train trip to the east coast.

  3. Recycling aluminum cans saves 95% of the energy it would take to make cans from ore. Leaves a lot of room for transportation cost and still produce a generous energy saving benefit.

    Much of the west coast scrap aluminum is now shipped off to Asia. Labor and low transportation costs are able to make this cost effective. The Asian market is the biggest consumer of aluminum.

    The recycled paper industry (where I work) whose savings are nowhere near the 95% figure of aluminum are facing a lot of pressure from the Asian market as well. While there are bauxite mines for producing aluminum, forests are rare.

  4. Dennis/James – I was watching a “Dirty Jobs” segment where they turned aluminum cans into super-heavy bales. Aluminum is light, but I think they pack it into an extremely dense/heavy bale for shipping. Good question about the west coast vs. east coast….

    Rick – Thanks for commenting. I heard a rumor that new aluminum production took a lot of energy vs. recycling aluminum. Thanks for clarifying.

    I wonder about the difference between financial cost and environmental costs. I bet we could find some interesting cost/benefit analyses on the web…

  5. I haven’t come across any good cost/benefit analysis but did find this blog article which does a good job of making the recycling industries case.

    Will keep looking for a good spreadsheet or other illustration of $$ and environmental costs/savings.

  6. I received the following email from Allied Waste today:

    Our aluminum is shipped to the east coast because that is where the best market is. Allied Waste doesn’t actually do the shipping. Once we send materials to the material recovery facility, they sell the commodities for the highest price they can get. I am not aware of aluminum recycling in this area. You are probably aware that aluminum is one of the most valuable recycling commodities. Making aluminum from virgin materials is so energy intensive, that enough electricity to power a television for 2 hours is saved for each can recycled. I agree that local markets are best. The material recovery facility also looks for local markets whenever possible and told me when I checked with them that they are always looking for west coast markets.

    Allied Waste of Albany-Lebanon & Corvallis

  7. We don’t have any aluminum smelters on the West Coast anymore because of the stupid assed environmentalists! Great thinking. 1940’s to 1980’s there were tons of them at every dam along the Columbia River!


  8. Yeah, but the plants along the Columbia were nasty polluters and were only there because they got electricity for 2 cents a KWh while the rest of use pay 6 cents. Once the subsidy was gone they moved on and the cheap hydro power for residence and industry means less gas and coal burned facilities to supply power for the NW.

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