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.
HOW COMMON ARE TIN CANS?
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 ADVANTAGES
- 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.*
TIN AND STEEL CAN DISADVANTAGES
- 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.
TIN CAN HISTORY
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.