Aluminum is the most abundant metal on Earth. Thanks to aluminum and the popularity of recycling, you could be buying the same recycled soda can about six times every year. That makes aluminum an economical, yet practical, container for soda and other beverages.
There is more aluminum than any other metal on Earth, accounting for more than 7 percent of Earth's crust, according to the HistoryofAluminum.com. It is lightweight, yet extraordinarily strong, and does not rust.
In the 1940s, carbonated beverages presented a challenge to tin can makers. Carbonation creates natural pressure. That pressure meant additional metal would have to be used in can production for beer and soda or leaks could occur making storage or transit tough, so an alternative packaging was sought.
Carbonated beverages also were corrosive, eating away at the tin can and ruining the beverage quality. Thus shelf life potential was greatly reduced. Aluminum, with its non-rusting properties, could help with this problem.
"Packaging adds value to our products by increasing shelf life, minimizing breakage, reducing transportation and handling costs, safeguarding public health, providing product information and creating consumer convenience," Coca Cola says about the importance of packaging on its website. With these ideals in mind, aluminum was the product of choice for a packaging innovation.
Change to Aluminum
Aluminum was first used in cans for drinks in 1965. But it wasn't until 1985 that aluminum cans were the can of choice in the beverage world, according to the Can Manufacturing Institute. Because aluminum could easily be molded, it made it possible for more marketable advertising of products right on the cans. Stores and manufacturers liked this aspect.
"Perhaps the most critical element in the aluminum can's market success was its recycling value," states the Can Manufacturing Institute. There is no difference in virgin aluminum or recycled aluminum, yet it takes 20 times less energy to produce it, according to The A to Z of Materials website. Aluminum recycling was not only economical for manufacturing companies but it saved resources, as "an average of 54 percent of each new aluminum can is made from recycled aluminum," according to the Can Manufacturing Institute.
In addition to recycling, aluminum can producers are saving money and resources by making cans even lighter, a process called "lightweighting." The Environmental Protection Agency states that "the weight of aluminum cans has decreased by 52 percent since 1972--29 cans can be made from a pound of aluminum, up from 22 cans in 1972."