Recycling cans changes an industry
Andy Kerr's proposal to dismantle or not
build 18 dams rests in part on the fact that Americans in 1992
recycled 67.9 percent of their aluminum cans.
That recycling saved an immense amount of
electricity, and helped make the Northwest's aluminum plants more
marginal than they would have been without recycling. Peter Merner,
an industry analyst in New York City, said, "The effect of more
recycling is to reduce the price of aluminum."
Merner said it is difficult to quantify how much
recycling depressed aluminum's price, but it is easy to quantify
how much electricity is saved. According to the Aluminum
Association, based in Washington, D.C., it takes 20 times more
electricity to make an aluminum product from scratch than it does
to make it from recycled material.
There is more
to the aluminum industry than beer and pop cans. Food containers
consume only 28 percent of all U.S. aluminum. Transportation (autos
and aircraft) use 19.5 percent of aluminum and construction
consumes 14.3 percent. Much of the aluminum in automobiles is also
Merner predicted that the Northwest's
aluminum smelters would be priced out of the region's electricity
market within a decade or two. But he also predicted that the
electricity freed by their demise would be consumed by residential
and commerical growth in the region.