Love and an Aluminum Can

Ever stop to think about an aluminum can?… I mean *really* think…


Click to enlarge.

An aluminum can is a container, mass produced… used to contain something else (which is also mass produced).

The aluminum is (mostly) made by strip mining the earth for an ore called bauxite… mixing the ore with chemicals and heating to about 400F (200C)… mixing the result with other chemicals and melting that at about 1832F (1000C)… lots of heat & lots of chemicals… huge 6 story vats…


Click to enlarge.

It takes about 4 lbs of bauxite to make one pound of aluminum… and about 6-8 Kw of energy (run a TV for about 400 hours). Making just one can uses enough power to run a laptop 11 hours.

Where does the heat come from? Where do the chemicals come from? Are they mined? With machines?

The metal is made in an electric bath using ‘stuff’. Where does all this stuff come from? How is it made?

Machines were used to mine the bauxite ore. Where did those machines come from? How were they made? More mining… more melting… by other machines… which were made…


Click to enlarge.

One pound of aluminum produces about 32 cans. How are the cans formed? Coils of thick aluminum are cut to form ‘disks’ which are further processed… requiring lubrication, cleaning, cutting machines… all made from what, how, using how much energy?

Once the cans are ready, they’re shipped out to be filled… with what, made out of what, processed how?

There is ink on the can… where does the ink come from? How is it made, packaged, shipped, and applied?


Click to enlarge.

Shipping the cans to stores… uses trucks and diesel fuel… the trucks have large rubber tires, big engines… they need maintenance… but have to be built first… more machines to mine, process, melt, form… more energy… more machines to build those machines.

All this for some aluminum cans… filled with stuff that isn’t really even that good for us…


Click to enlarge.

 – 1.4 million truckloads per year (2 trips?)
– 220 million cans per day
– 9 million cans per hour
= just in the USA

Americans go through between 80 and 100 billion cans per year…

Imagine 2 truckloads of cans (152,000) dumped in your backyard… every minute… of every day… non-stop.


Click to enlarge.

Yes, the cans are recycled (less than 50%)… and recycling 32 cans (1 pound) saves about 4 pounds of bauxite, 4 pounds of chemicals, and 7 kWh of electricity… but even recycling means trucking, melting, energy…

If not recycled, each can will take 100-400 years to decompose.

So by now you may be wondering…

what does Love have to do with all this?


I’m wondering what kind of Love is it that does this?…

…just a thought

It All Starts with Dirt
How Aluminum is Produced
How aluminum cans are made
How aluminum is recycled
Recycling Facts
The Benefits of Aluminum Recycling


About SprinklinThoughts

Give good to the world & make sense of it... the world, not the good... well... OK, the good too. :-)
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30 Responses to Love and an Aluminum Can

  1. Wow. Great post. What an amazing amount of coordination, cooperation and efficiency goes into aluminum can production, and it’s recyclable too. That’s the anarchy of the market at work. Reminds me of Sowell’s “I, Pencil”. It seems unfathomable that an aluminum can costs just pennies after considering all the work it takes to create, and the manufacturer still makes a profit! Are you amazed at that as I am?
    Two short videos…

    Thomas Thwaites: How I built a toaster — from scratch


    • Thank you…
      yes it is amazing in a way… but when we consider that the cheapness (or even existence) of the can is actually because of cheap electricity (from dams & such subsidized by ‘taxes’), waste that is not properly handled, people that are not properly paid for their labor/land/resources… then I would say that rather than amazing, it is appalling… 😦


      • The market is begging us all to make a better, cheaper can. The market is begging someone to find uses for byproducts of the can manufacturing process.

        John D. Rockefeller make a much of his money because he spent money on R&D to find new used of the wast material in all of processes involved with oil refinement.


        • You’re right… the market is waiting & maybe we should use what is there as waste/leftovers… but my feeling is we should stop making cans altogether… IMO the cost is simply not worth (and cannot justify) it…


          • I see two ways to impose personal values on a free market.

            Invest in discovering better products and/or processes. The market will propel it to replace all less favorable products and processes if indeed the alleged superior qualities (lower price, less waste, superior strength, lighter weight, etc) provide a true savings to consumers. A free market can only produce what is (a) desired (b) at the lowest cost and (3) least waste. No market endeavour can survive if it cannot do those three things. It will expend all it’s capital and cease to exist. Unless of course, there exists a coercive force in the system which supposes the authority to confiscate a portion of the earnings in the market and funnel them to favored and well connected market players. Such a scenario works contrary to consumer preference and protects waste and abuse from the scrutiny of the market.

            Consume less of what it is that you’ve determined provides little value to you, given the perceived cost and encourage others to do so. Consumer preference plays a very vital role in a truly free market, much more than it does when special interest groups convince the state to intervene in the market to protect certain industries.

            Both approaches are aimed at decreasing demand. Any attempt to restrict production of a valued commodity by law or force creates a black market, driving up prices, which in turn creates more incentive to mine and refine – aluminum in this instance.


            • (although “valued commodity” is an acquired taste) I agree… within that box… yet I believe that the problem is the market itself… it is the “market” or “profit motive” that lies as one of the main roots of the pain and devastation all around us (and within many of us)… unless we make the jump out of market profit and into simple “living”, we’re doomed…


  2. Gracious. I have no words except thank you for this post. I Facebooked it.


  3. Visionkeeper says:

    Sad isn’t it M ? This is the kind of stuff that needs to be run as advertising on TV…Gotta wake up here and join reality! Great post actually and very enlightening. A great reminder for us to ponder. I live by the rule of ‘ Simplicity’….Sun tea 🙂 VK


    • Yes, it is very sad. And the widespread ‘effect’ of all these individual things is even sadder. And sadder still is that most people think it’s all OK and the way it should be. Oh well…
      Simplicity is a great way to go/be… and green tea is good too (though I do relish a Constant Comment orange on rare occasion). 🙂


  4. Michael says:

    Maybe it is a Love that got a little off track, but it is a profoundly creative Love. It is a Love that also made stars and moons and oceans, whales mosquitos and T-Rex. It is a Love that wakes up in the morning and kisses children. It is a Love that writes novels, and paints, and writes software, and lays cable and launches satellites, and that has brought the entire world closer than it has ever been before. It is a Love that has 7 billion moving-thinking-dreaming parts, and no fear of failure. It is a Love that is continuously causing infinitesimal particles of light to wink in and out of being in points of inky blackness millions of miles from the nearest star. It is a Love that has made gravity. It is a Love that is wondering what it is… It is a Love that is remembering how to Love… It is a Love that is aluminum, that is engines, that is petroleum, that is sunlight, that is you and I, that is here now, that is asking us… what would ever be, without this Love?


    • An interesting and insightful view… I would be inclined to agree completely yet I can’t seem to shake the feeling that it may not be love at all. Is murder an act of love? Rape?
      When the can cycle runs it wreaks much havoc… and for what purpose?
      I guess what I’m trying to say is I find it hard to accept that all that happens here on earth is love. It seems to me there is a counter force at work… with a counter purpose.
      But if you are correct, the problem (of aluminum cans) still exists… now what?


      • Michael says:

        The intent of my response was to explore a different perspective of the problem. I’m not saying polluting the environment is a good thing. And I’m certainly not jumping so far down the road as to say that rape and murder are acts of love. (I would, however, suggest that Love offers all beings the same, perfect, infinite Gift- that Love is the ground of all beings and that although beings may act in ways that suggest they know this not, those acts do not change the fundamental Truth of either the actor or the acted upon. If the actions we make and/or receive were the sole, determining factor in who we are, and of what we are worthy, not one of us would be worthy [of much at all]. Love’s version of fairness is altogether different from ours I believe.)
        I am agreeing 100% that something isn’t quite right on our little watery rock of planet, but that the thing that isn’t right is our lack of recognition and connection to the Love that underwrites every moment of our existence. I am not suggesting that the aluminum cans are unimportant, but that they are not the fundamental issue. They are only a byproduct of a much more fundamental “problem”. They are just a symptom. We can make the symptom better- nothing wrong with that… But the fundamental source of discord, and thus the discord itself, will persist. We may just feel it in another way.
        I think recycling aluminum cans is a good thing to be doing while we work our way ever closer to deep and genuine solutions, but also I propose that we need not become excessively concerned with the problem to the point that we find reasons to judge those who don’t behave the way we wish, or to make the non-recyclers or aluminum-can-drink-drinkers out to be less than anybody else. Or to make such an issue of it, that we create division rather than wholeness. (And I’m certainly not saying you were trying to do this… I don’t believe you were at all… Words can be awkward… I simply felt that you had identified a clear symptom… of a deeper problem.)
        Because (in my heartfelt opinion) the problem isn’t aluminum cans- it’s division between people. It’s ignorance of the Love that is the self- that is each self and all selves and one self. It’s ignorance of what is possible. I think what we don’t believe is that a great many of our problems could roll up into a ball and disappear if we had a deep, vital and living connection to the Love that is the Executive Sponsor of everything that is. We can’t see the mechanisms by which this could occur… because we aren’t fully and truly seeing Love… and thus we cannot fathom the mechanisms Love offers… the ones that produced stars and bauxite ore in the first place. I am suggesting the solution to the “aluminum can problem” is somehow to do with the “technology” of Love.
        And when I say “we” in the last paragraph, I mean me… I’m not clear on how this works… I’m not fully and truly seeing Love… I cannot quite fathom the mechanisms Love offers… I’m just in this place where I’m saying… maybe… maybe… our panoply of concerns are all a proxy for this one, fundamental reunion we are inching towards… together… with Love Itself.


  5. There never seems to be anything we can do to stop industry from destroying the earth. Industry has money and they buy the right to pollute and destroy. Money is power and grass root organizations simply cannot compete…this is rue in many areas. Groups go on for years and years (I’ve worked in some) and small changes can be made but are often overturned later. I don’t know what we can do. What are the chances of getting people to stop using cans? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Zero. So if you can’t stop the industry and you can’t stop people from using products that destroy the earth…there’s nowhere to go….


    • You are right, and it is such a depressing thought… yet, there are options… some say we should go on the offensive and take down this system — and in some ways I agree but cannot bring myself to be destructive… so… I haven’t purchased or used an aluminum can in about 3 years… little steps… drops of water can make oceans.


  6. ♡eM says:

    It’s mind blowing!

    We’re far removed from the sources of our food, shelter, and everyday living, even water for many.

    But we are still mindful of our lives, of love.


  7. This makes a good point. (I particularly liked the tongue-in-cheek “(2 trips?)”.) It is ironic the point was made using a computer built from precious metals that are woefully less efficient and more wasteful to mine, process, etc., and some of which are in critically short supply. With over 7 billion of us, there is no way we will not leave a mark.


  8. hermanchad says:

    I had to reblog this it was so awesome. Of course, I spun it in to a thought of creating positive change…check it out. Great article!!!


  9. Pingback: Love and an Aluminum Can | Motivating For Positive Change

  10. risinghawk says:

    Reblogged this on The Hawk's Tail and commented:
    I say READ THIS. You can do what you want, of course. Namaste . . .


  11. risinghawk says:

    Superb. Dreadfully sad, but superb. I am going to re-blog this . . . if you object, let me know and I will remove it immediately. Peace . . .


  12. I took environmental science in college, and it pushed me to despair. It’s hard not to fall to pieces when you consider how badly we’ve screwed things up.


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