Aluminum Cans: the high yield salvagable – Dr. Plastic Picker

Aluminum Cans: the high yield salvagable

| Posted in Reduce/Reuse/Recycle

November 21, 2019

by drplasticpicker

In the two and half months since I have started keeping count, I have collected 150 aluminum cans from the beach. I have dug them out half buried in the sand, climbed up the sand cliffs, tramped under the lifeguard towers, and thought about diving into poison ivy (which I did not). But that total makes me very excited. Let me explain to you why.

This image is from the internet, but this is the edition I had. I know it’s in the house somewhere but still trying to find it.

One of books I enjoyed immensely as a child was the original Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank Gilbreth. Before it was made into a movie with Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt, it was a book based in the early 1900s about life of a real “efficiency expert” who had twelve children. I loved the concept so much that I always thought I would have close to 12 children, but then I had my second and last daughter very premature at 28 weeks- that kind of put an end to those plans. She is thankfully healthy now.

Often times when I am doing a preop for a pediatric patient to undergo tonsillectomy, I will mention to families that back then general pediatricians used to do the procedure in their office. And in the original book Cheaper by the Dozen, the protagonist had several of his children get their tonsils out at the same time by the same peditrician lined in a row. This was to save time and money.

I have no desire to take tonsils out, nor do general pediatricians do that anymore. But I have always been fascinated by the idea of efficiency. So as drplasticpicker, I want to help the earth but do it in an efficient manner. Hence this leads me to aluminum cans.

Budweiser. Under a neighborhood tree. Photo credit by dr plasticpicker.

When I do my quick 20 minute jog back and forth to the beach, I usually don’t pick up any plastics. When I reach the shore and my tennis shoes hit the sand, this is when I transform into drplasticpicker. I then will pick along the path to the shore, along the shore and then back to the sidewalk. On the beach, I pick up little and big pieces of plastic.

But when I’m jogging toward the beach and then back home and trying to get a bit of cardio, I run by disposable coffee cups, plastic bags, and even items of clothing. I need to get my exercise so that I don’t have to join a gym, and can donate that money to environmental organizations But I will always make sure to stop for aluminum cans. Aluminum is the high yield salvagable.

I will often refer back to his article from by Larry West. He writes “unlike plastic bags, which endanger marine life and trash the planet, aluminum cans are actually good for the environment. At least, they are if people like you and me take the time to recycle them.” West, Larry. “The Benefits of Aluminum Recycling.” ThoughtCo, Aug. 20, 2019, Of the 100 billion aluminum cans sold in the US, only half are recycled. I once told a friend about my plastic picking hobby, as he is retired and lives near the beach. I was thinking that I could convince him to pick up a few pieces when he goes on his walks. My questioning did not work because he told me, “The Beach Combers get them all.” Clearly this is not true, as there are 50 billion aluminum cans that never make it back.

A typical weekend day. I’ve already thrown the ocean plastic pollution bag in the trash receptable, but bring these cans home. Yes I somtimes wear my 20 year old scrubs to the beach. Photo credit by drplasticpicker.

When I see an aluminum can, I think back to Larry West’s article and these points.

  1. There is no limit to how many times aluminum can be recycled.
  2. Aluminum cans are 100% recyclable making them the most recyclable and valuable of all materials.
  3. Recycling aluminum saves 90-95% of the energy needed to make aluminum from bauxite ore.
  4. Recycling 1 aluminum can is enough to power a televison set for 3 hours.
The high yield salvagable! Aluminum! Trays I salvaged from our office party. Photo credit by drplasticpicker.

Earlier this week we had our Thanksgiving Day meal at the office and the food was delivered in all aluminum trays. Office meals and parties create a lot of waste. We are slowly as an office trying to decrease our waste, and I try to recycle as much as I can. But I still have to manage the office and my portion of the department during the normal workday, not to mention patients that need to be attended to. I simply can’t pick up everyone’s plastic bottles after the meetings, no matter how much I want to live my truth as my avatar drplasticpicker. But I do now make sure to recycle the aluminum trays.

Can you image the amount of aluminum can equivalents that the picture above represents? It seemed messy bringing the cardboard box with the trays into my car. There was still food wastage. But when I got it home, it only took me about 3 minutes to wash everything. The clean aluminum I happily deposited in our home’s curbside recycling bin.

And what about the 150 cans I’ve collected on the beach so far? I had grand plans to take it to the recycling center and take the money earned and donate it to the Rainforest Trust, and then blog about it. But the truth is that I collected about 100 cans a few months ago already and they were clean and in a large garbage bag outside by our garage. But as I was pulling into our garage early one day from work, the sun was shining and the weather was beautiful. I spied a young man that was well kempt but clearly somewhat impoverished. He was standing at the back of a tired looking station wagon, sorting garbage bags of plastic water bottles. I did what anyone would do, I pulled into my own garage and after the garage door was firmly closed – I got my bag that I had painstakenly collected over the last month and exited into the alley from our side yard. I offered him my bag of more monetarily valuable aluminum cans whereas he had only plastic water bottles. . He was clear eyed and grateful, and not much older than some of my teenage patients. Mr. Plastic Picker that night heard about what I did, and he said that it was the right thing to do. Mr. Plastic Picker did mention that perhaps that young gentleman would come back more frequently looking for things. Its been about a month and I have not seen him. And even if I did, I know that he is a person and someone’s son. He was doing a net positive for the earth by collecting all those recyclables. And he saved me probably at least 1 gallon of gas of driving to the recycling center and back. He essentially was carpooling the bag of aluminum cans I had collected.

Click here to read about how I tried to spread a less high-yield but still important recycling program, presciption glasses/sunglasses

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