Many of us are familiar with the fizzy sound that emanates as we pull the tab on a can of beer or soda. There are so many aluminum cans out in the world that 113,000 of them are recycled every minute. According to the Aluminum Association, recycled cans can appear back on shelves in about 60 days.
Where did these cans come from? Back in 1959, Coors created the first all-aluminum beverage container. Also at this time, Coors was paying a penny for each can returned to them. In 1964, Royal Crown Cola introduced RC Cola and Diet Rite in aluminum cans.
Why use aluminum? Before aluminum, beverage makers used steel cans. Aluminum proved to be much lighter and had a better surface for applying graphics than steel. Cans today weigh less than an ounce. Aluminum cans also allow for 100% protection against contaminants, oxygen, and light, according to the Aluminum Association. These cans also do not rust, have one of the longest shelf lives of any packaging, and are tamper-resistant. Aluminum cans are so strong, four six-packs can hold up a 2 ton car! In addition to providing superior beverage packaging, aluminum cans are used for aerosol products and paint.
The problem with the first aluminum cans was their opening mechanism. They required a device called a “church key” to open the cans. It is said that the inventor of the pull tab had to use the fender of his car to open his beer can, as he forgot his church key. He owned a tool company and invented the pull tab. This tab predated the tabs we are familiar with today, the “stay-on tab” invented in 1975.
The aluminum can is still alive and thriving more than 50 years after their invention. This growth can be attributed to the continued popularity of canned soft drinks, and the booming energy drink market. Companies like Red Bull, Amp, Monster, and more are utilizing aluminum cans to house their beverages. In addition to energy drinks, many craft beer brewers are using aluminum cans as opposed to bottles. The Aluminum Association found that almost 400 brewers use these cans, as they provide superior protection from light and oxygen.