Pros and Cons of Tin (or Steel) Cans

July 17, 2011 Seven comments View all articles in General

Over the past 200 years human beings have had a love affair with tin cans. Not only have we been obsessed with protecting our food, but our efforts to find just the right way to preserve that quart of peaches or bushel of corn has lead to the development of steel and tin manufacturing in the food industry. No longer relying on breakable glass bottles or toxic lead solder, modern-day food processing utilizes state-of-the art manufacturing techniques to package and preserve food for a longer shelf life.


The Can Manufacturer's Institute claims that steel cans are used for over 1,500 food items worldwide. This is a fairly impressive number when one considers how much food is consumed every month in the United States alone: the U.S. Census Bureau reports that $389 million dollars worth of food stuffs in the retail and food services industry was sold during April of 2011. This is a lot of food, and much of it is packaged in cans. And while steel cans are also handy, they are also a resource that can be easily recycled.


  • Tin and steel can products are up to 100% recyclable if disposed of correctly.
  • They are the most tamper-resistant form of food storage currently in use.
  • In 2006, a majority of steel cans used at least 28% recycled metal.
  • Recycling tin and steel cans can save Americans nearly $3 billion in energy costs every year.*


  • Steel and tin are non-renewable resources. Once mined and manufactured, they cannot replenish themselves. Because of this, it becomes the responsibility of the consumer to ensure their steel cans are recycled and repurposed.
  • 34% of steel cans are thrown away rather than recycled.
  • Unless the empties are properly disposed of and added to the closed-loop recycling process, raw steel and tin resources could eventually run dry.


Napoleon Bonaparte's military campaign during the turn of the 19th century helped to spark food packaging innovations when he offered a reward for anyone who could find a way to preserve food for his hungry troops. In 1810, French citizen Nicholas Appert won 12,000 francs from Napoleon when he developed a method for storing food in glass jars. The same year, Englishman Peter Durand patented a design for an iron can with tin plating and lead soldering. Fast forward 100 years to 1922: the process of can crimping was introduced to tin can manufacturing and by the mid-1950s, tin cans no longer used lead solder but instead consisted of two or three pieces of tin-plated steel crimped together to form an air-tight seal.


Tincanlover123 on Nov. 20, 2014 at 11:59 p.m.

I see you like tin cans, mjahh

jim on Dec. 8, 2014 at 2:33 a.m.

This wsas very informative ansd it helps with my work.

James on April 30, 2015 at 11:07 a.m.

Please people, spell correctly and this does help with what I am doing but really. Who is going 2 research tin cans other than for a project? Please make page on more life changing inventions.

Ethan on Aug. 16, 2015 at 7:09 p.m.

Thanks, this helped me with my assignment.

Dallas on Sept. 8, 2016 at 2:20 a.m.

Great summary of information to one place. thanks alot, helped me greatly.

Mahalakshmi on Sept. 24, 2018 at 4:43 p.m.

I need a detailed history about tin can.

Scarlett on Dec. 6, 2018 at 4:07 a.m.

I had a love affair with tin cans 😂

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