Information on Recycling "Tin Cans"

The can we commonly call tin is really more than 99% steel with a thin plating of tin. The tin helps protect the flavor of food in the can. Because it is made of steel, it is magnetic and all you need is a small magnet to tell it from an aluminum can.

If your local recycling center accepts tin-plated steel cans, they will probably ask that paper labels be removed and the cans be flattened. Reducing the space these cans take up is important to a recycling center, and your cooperation will help them operate as smoothly as possible.

Processing & remanufacture

Baled or loose loads of steel cans will be sold to a scrap metal broker. A broker will be able to gather large amounts of cans and other scrap steel from various sources and process it for delivery to a foundry or a steel mill.

Scrap fed into the furnaces of a mill or a foundry might be mixed with new steel in various proportions. More and more, mills and foundries are finding tin-plated steel cans to be useful in their manufacturing operations.


Another possible buyer for a broker's shipment of steel cans would be a detinning company. Steel cans are detinned by a combination of chemical and electrical processes. First, they are submerged in a chemical bath. The tin plating dissolves into this solution, and the remaining solid steel is easily removed from the tank, rinsed, and prepared for shipment to a mill.

After the solution containing the tin has been filtered and its chemical make-up has been modified, electricity is used to condense the tin onto plates. As these plates have a higher melting point than tin, the layer of tin can then be melted off and poured into ingots.

One good market for these ingots of nearly pure tin is the steel can manufacturing industry. At a steel mill, detinned steel from cans forms only a small portion of the scrap steel received. Scrap steel is used in the production of a great variety of products: automobiles, bridges, washing machines or even steel sheet that can be used to make new cans.

50 fun craft ideas for cans.

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