Website Title: SCRIB - Steel Can Recycle Information Bureau

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Facts and figures

  • All steel cans are 100% recyclable. They can be recycled over and over again, to make anything from cars and bicycles to more steel cans, without any loss of quality!
  • Steel is the only common metal that will stick to a magnet.
  • In the UK, we use 13 billion steel cans every year. Stacked on top of each other, you could make three piles of cans that would reach to the moon.
  • Steel is made from one of the earth's most common natural resources, iron ore, as well as limestone and coal.
  • Steel is strong and durable, protecting from water, oxygen and light. These qualities make steel an excellent packaging material for food and drink, and for household, promotional and industrial products.
  • Millions of steel cans are collected every day by huge magnets that pull them out of dustbin waste.
  • Every household uses approximately 600 steel cans a year.
  • A Frenchman, Nicolas Appert, invented the steel can in 1810 as a way to preserve food for Napoleon's army.
  • Steel is the most recycled metal in the UK - and in the world.
  • The thinnest part of a steel can wall measures only 0.07mm thick - that's thinner than a human hair.
  • It would take 1087 steel drinks cans stacked end to end to reach the top of the London Eye - or 2818 to reach the top of the Eiffel Tower.
  • 70% of all steel packaging is recycled, compared to just over 30% of aluminium packaging.
  • Steel cans are becoming lighter. The average weight of a soft drinks can is only 21.4g, compared with 31.2g in 1980.
  • Over 3 billion cans are recycled in the UK each year - equivalent to the weight of 18,000 double decker buses.
  • It's not just food and drink that come in steel cans. Many paint cans, aerosols, biscuit and sweet tins, and bottle tops are made of steel too.
  • Recycling one tonne of steel cans saves 1.5 tonnes of iron ore, 0.5 tonnes of coal and 40% water usage.
  • Two-thirds of all cans on supermarket shelves are made of steel.
  • Recycling seven steel cans saves enough energy to power a 60-watt light bulb for 26 hours.
  • Steel in Europe contains 56% recycled steel and is 100% recyclable.


Q. How can you tell if a can in the supermarket is made of steel?

A. Read the signs. Steel cans often have special symbols on them to show they are made and can be recycled. Or test them with a magnet.

recycling signs

Q. Why do we call cans tins?

A. A very thin layer of tin helps to keep the contents fresh. This layer is only about 15 millionths of an inch thick (less than a human hair), so 'tins' aren't really tins at all - we should call them 'steels'!

Q. Where can my school recycle all the cans we use at lunchtime?

A. You should contact your local council's recycling officer who can advise on collections in your area. If you let us know which council area your school is in, we can give you the contact details.

Q. How can we tell if cans are steel or aluminium?

A. Steel is the only metal which is magnetic, so if it sticks to a magnet it's steel.

Q. Can we put steel and aluminium cans in our local Save-a-Can bank?

A. Yes you can. When the can bank is emptied, the local authority will separate the cans (possibly using a magnet to extract the steel) and send them back to the steel or aluminium industry for recycling.

Q. How are steel cans made?

A. Steel is made from one of the earth's most common natural resources, iron ore, as well as limestone and coal. The final important ingredient is scrap steel such as used cars, fridges and cans. All these ingredients are mixed together to make molten steel which is then set (like jelly) into slabs. Once they are cool, these slabs are flattened and made into coils which are sent to canmakers who make use specially developed machines to cut out the shapes needed to make the cans.

Why do you say that steel cans are 100% recyclable?

A. Because every bit of a steel can is capable of being recycled and being used as an essential ingredient in the steel making process.