Steel vs. aluminum

October 14, 1990

Aluminum's biggest advantage for recyclers

Much higher resale value. Aluminum fetches 1 cent to 1 1/2 cents per can, or 35 cents a pound (57 cents a pound if baled). Steel is worth less than a quarter of a cent a can, or zero to 2 1/2 cents a pound (7 cents a pound if baled).

Steel'sbiggest advantage

Its magnetic attraction. Using giant electromagnets, companies mechanically remove steel cans along with other cans from garbage. Even if the consumer can't be bothered, his cans might be recycled. An aluminum can, however, must be separated out by hand if discarded with the rest of a household's garbage.

Energy usedin manufacturing

A steel can requires only about half the energy used to make an aluminum can -- a figure that diminishes somewhat as more and more aluminum is recycled.

Recycling rates

In 1989, 60 percent of the 86 billion aluminum cans used nationwide were recycled, compared with 20 percent of the steel cans.

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