Aluminum is a soft and silvery metal that is nonmagnetic, durable and malleable. With chemical symbol Al, it is the most abundant metal and third most abundant element in Earth’s crust. The element comes from a natural rock or “ore” called Bauxite. Although the ores had been discovered in 1821, the aluminum itself wasn’t extracted until 1825 by Danish chemist and physicist Hans Christian Oersted. Oersted made nodules of the metal by heating potassium amalgam with aluminium. After his process, more scientists began experimenting with aluminum, inspiring products such as jewelry and ornaments as the material resembled silver. During Napoleon III’s reign as President of the French Republic from 1848-1852, aluminum plates were used for state dinners. Because of the complexities of obtaining aluminum at the time, the aluminum plates were actually considered more valuable than those made of gold or silver. Then, in 1889, American inventor Charles Martin Hall came up with a process of using an electrical current to isolate metallic aluminum from ores. This allowed aluminum to be much more inexpensive, and by the 1900s, the metal was used for houseware mass production. People discovered that aluminum pots and pans were lightweight, heated and cooled quickly and did not rust.
The history of the aluminum can begins in the late 1950s. Although metal cans had been used to store food and beverages since the 1930s, aluminum metal was not introduced to canned beverages until 1957. Then, in 1959, Coors teamed up with Kaiser Aluminium to introduce the first aluminum beer cans. Coors was not only responsible for the first aluminum drink cans, the company was also first to organize a recycling system with them. In 1962, Alcoa Inc. (Aluminum Company of America) devised the easy-open soda tab, and can-openers were no longer needed. Coca-Cola and Pepsi adopted the new packaging by 1967, and the aluminum can became the iconic container for beers, soft drinks and frozen juice concentrate. Its popularity was due to the fact that beverages in aluminum cans maintained carbonation very well and chilled the fastest. In addition, cans were stackable, lightweight and labels could be printed on them.
Another benefit of aluminum cans are that they are 100% recyclable, often made with recycled aluminum itself. About 68% of a standard North American aluminum can is made with recycled aluminum. Not only that, the recycling process of aluminum happens so quickly, that a recycled can is usually back onto shelves within 60 days. Cans have become the most recycled beverage packaging in the U.S., with 105,800 used beverage cans recycled every minute. They’re so environmentally friendly, that one aluminum can recycled saves enough energy to power a television for 3 hours! In the 1990s however, there was a decline in aluminum can drinks due to the invention of PET plastic bottles. Plastic bottles had the same low costs that aluminum can beverages offered, but allowed for them to be reclosed with their caps. However, most beer or energy drink brands still prefer their drinks in aluminum cans, due to the shorter shelf life plastic offers. Carbonated drinks in plastic tend to last 3 - 4 months, while canned soft drinks may last 9 months. In addition, water can last decades in cans, but only 12 - 24 months in plastic. As a result, aluminum cans are still a large part of the beverage industry, with 200 million used worldwide each year. Whether you are seeking convenience with plastic bottles or long-term storage with soda cans, our Specialty Sodas website has options for you.