The Story of Steel Sustainability

Tins Made From Steel – The #1 Sustainable Package

Steel sustainability is not a story that is told often enough. Steel packaging is the best choice you can make for sustainability. Decorative tins made from tin-plated steel are infinitely recyclable. Recycling a tin package uses fewer resources and energy than for other materials. Each tin can contains between 25 and 60% recycled steel.

The World Steel Association reports that the global steel can recycling rate has reached its highest record level of 68%. Steel Can Recycling Statistics

We do our part:

We at Independent Can diligently commit to a clean, environmentally conscious operation. We measure and document our efforts. The company’s “Green Committee” was established in March of 2008 with the mission of defining and implementing best practices company-wide. The team put in place a measurable agenda and educated our workforce. We consistently note improvement from year to year in our recycling totals for steel, plastic, aluminum, corrugated, mixed paper and energy efficiency.

We have installed the most energy saving coater ovens in the world. We have also overhauled an existing coater oven allowing for a 20+% increase in through-put and a 30% reduction of energy required utilizing the latest technology and environmental systems. Our printing lines achieve the same vibrant images using less ink. Even more energy is saved with ultraviolet curing.

Our facilities are equipped with energy-efficient heating, cooling and motion-activated lighting. Our facility in Ft. Madison, IA uses geothermal heating.

Steel: The Best Packaging Choice

The facts regarding steel sustainability have been the same for decades.  We are not jumping on the green bandwagon. We’ve always been green. Packaging made from tin-plated steel fills all three categories of sustainability in a way that no other package can claim. Because of their beauty and reusability, tins are collected, refilled or displayed in homes and establishments. They are part of the gift and require no secondary packaging. If a tin can ever does make it to a landfill, it can be separated by a magnet and is biodegradable. The life cycle of a steel package is infinite and without loss of quality. Many other claims of recyclability are just a temporary life cycle extension, with the second life eventually ending in the landfill. Because tin extends product shelf life and adds shelf appeal, it is the best packaging choice.

Quick Facts:

Can the Bag

• Recycling steel uses 60% less energy than making new
• Every can that you buy is at least 25% recycled steel and up to 60%
• Steel can be easily separated from other waste with a magnet
• There are more than 2000 scrap steel processors in the US
• Every 2,000 lbs. of recycled steel saves 2,500 lbs. of iron ore, 1400 lbs. of coal and 120 lbs. of limestone
• Each year, more steel is recycled than glass, paper, aluminum and plastic combined




Paperboard Packaging

Paperboard packaging contaminated by food residuals cannot be recycled. The paper fibers become contaminated that the recycling process cannot separate out the oils. Most barriers that coat the paper are also considered contaminants. Adding foils, valves,  and closures made from other materials or poly barrier lining renders the paper package unrecyclable.


Combination materials are difficult or impossible to recycle in most facilities. Most recycling centers will not accept composite ad the metal end cannot be separated from the paperboard body.

Plastic Bags and Containers

Plastics are made from petroleum. A recycled plastic container is never made into that container again because the process requires virgin plastic. Plastic bags and containers are only temporarily diverted from their final resting place: the landfill. Compared with other materials such as metal and glass, plastics require greater processing. Only some plastics can even claim a life extension through recycling. They can only be remade into secondary items such as textiles, toys, furniture, etc. Other plastics can only be reused but are not recyclable.


Bioplastics cannot be recycled with regular plastics. If they are not properly disposed of, they can release toxins into the environment. They can only biodegrade in a commercial composing environment due to the heat required to break them down.

Steel Life cycleinfinitely for web

• Scrap steel is bundled and taken to a recycling center.
• It is melted down and the impurities are burned off.
• If the steel is destined to become a can again instead of one of the many other uses for steel, molten steel is poured and rolled into a thing sheet.
• It is coated with tin to retard rust and rolled into a coil.
• The coil is cut into sheets of steel and the process of can making begins again.

Custom tin containers for coffee, tea and other consumables extend shelf life and eliminate the need for plastic valves and liners which are less recyclable.
MD Green Registry

Independent Can was one of the first companies to be a part of Maryland’s registry of green companies.

Maryland Green Registry Web Site

For more information on steel recycling visit:

For more detail on the environmental initiatives at Independent Can, contact us.