Math Problems: Aluminum Recycling
Adapted from Classroom Activities, by Dept of Economic & Community Development, State of Maine
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SUBJECT AREAS: math, economics
CONCEPT: Recycling aluminum makes sense economically as well as environmentally.
OBJECTIVE: To become aware of the economics involved in recycling aluminum.
pen or pencil
handout: Math Problems: Aluminum Recycling
KEYWORDS: recycling
BACKGROUND: Compared with creating an aluminum can from raw materials, recycling one soda can results in 85% less air pollution and 97% less water pollution and uses 90% less energy.
New York State, like several other states, has a bottle deposit law. The bottle bill gives people an incentive to keep litter off the streets and bottles and cans out of the landfill. For each deposit container you bring to the store you receive 5 cents and the container usually is recycled by the company. In other states, cans may be taken to recycling centers which pay by the pound. The following exercise takes place in such a recycling center.
PROCEDURE: Discuss the advantages of recycling aluminum, and have the students complete the problems on the following page.
1. 24 cans/lb x 15,000 lb/trailer = 360,000 cans/trailer
2. Answer will depend on your price per can or per pound. For example, if price is 60 cents per pound: $0.60/lb x 15,000 lb = $9,000
3. 15,000 lbs/trailer / 30 lbs/collector = 500 can collectors/trailer
4. 15,000 lbs/trailer / 800 lbs/bale = 18 complete bales (and 3/4 of another bale)/trailer
5. 24 cans/lb x 800 lb/bale = 19,200 cans / bale
6. 100 bales/boxcar x 800 lbs/bale = 80,000 lb. cans / boxcar
7. 100 bales/boxcar x 19,200 cans/bale = 1,920,000 cans / boxcar
8. Answer will depend on your price per can or per pound. For example, if price is 60 cents per pound: $0.60/lb x 80,000 lb/boxcar = $48,000/boxcar

Math Problems: Aluminum Recycling
Recycling centers store the used cans they buy from can collectors in trailers. A full trailer holds 15,000 pounds of loose cans. There are about 24 aluminum cans in a pound. When the trailer is full, it is hauled to a processing plant where the loose cans are pressed into huge 800-pound bales. Bales are loaded into rail boxcars for a trip to an aluminum company remelting plant. Remelted cans are rolled into new aluminum for new cans.
If you are in a state with a bottle bill, the value of each container is five or ten cents. If your state does not have a bottle bill, find out how much per pound your nearest recycling center pays for aluminum. If you have no recycling center near you, ask a local scrap metal dealer for the price paid for aluminum scrap. Use a price of 60 cents per pound if you cannot get a local figure.
1. Suppose you own a recycling center. If you want to fill your trailer full of used beverage cans, how many cans will you need?
2. How much cash can you collect for the cans in a full trailer?
3. If each can collector brings 30 pounds, how many collectors must visit the center before a trailer is full?
4. When the trailer is hauled to a processing plant (where loose cans are baled), how many complete bales can be made from one trailer load?
5. How many cans are in one bale?
6. The bales are loaded in railroad boxcars. A boxcar holds 100 bales. How many pounds of cans are in a full boxcar?
7. How many cans are in a full boxcar?
8. How much were can collectors paid for the cans in a boxcar?
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