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How much is Inside an Aluminum Can?

How much aluminum is in an aluminum can? On Wednesday night, we decided to find out.

Aluminum cans are really nice packages. They are attractive, lightweight, cheap and safe. Their single-material construction allows them to be recycled with a minimum of effort.

What I wanted to know was, exactly how much aluminum foil does it take to equal the mass of a single soda can?

A typical aluminum can weighs 13.2 grams, or about half of an ounce.

Aluminum foil is a similarly-attractive packaging material. It is even lighter, cheaper, and some would even say it is more attractive. It is the cheapest metal you can buy... in a grocery store.

It is not a suitable material for holding liquids.

Aluminum foil, you might already know, is sold in rolls, with a standard width of one foot. A test of one square foot of foil revealed that foil weighs 6 grams per foot, or half of a gram per inch (½ g/inch).

This means that a 13.2 gram soda can is equal to about 27 inches of aluminum foil, spooled off of a 12" roll.

Here is a photo of the two equals.

This means that a 200 ft. roll of aluminum foil contains as much aluminum as 89 cans!

With a twelve pack, you could have enough aluminum to completely encase Dave Ghrol!

Foo Fighters Trip (2005)

Cans are almost 5" tall, and about 2½" wide. That works out to 51 square inches of aluminum, if we take some shortcuts on the surface area calculations and treat it as a perfect cylinder.

The foil rectangle has an area of 324 square inches. That's 6½ times as large as the can area, but they have the same weight, so the skin of the can must be about 6½ times as thick as the foil.

In case you are wondering, a similar aluminum foil cylinder only weighs about 5 grams.

In California, and some other states, aluminum beverage can sales are required to add a special deposit tax, the "California Redemption Value", or CRV to encourage recycling. The CRV is 5¢ per can (2014).

Despite its high value as a recyclable material, brand new rolls of aluminum foil sell for about 4¢ per foot, so you probably shouldn't bother crushing the aluminum cans into your own homemade foil sheets.


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