How Much Does It Cost to Make an Aluminum Can?

Ever wondered how much it costs to produce the aluminum cans that hold your favorite beverages? Let’s dive into the factors that contribute to their price.

On average, it costs around $0.10 to $0.15 per can to produce an aluminum can, with raw materials accounting for the majority of the expenses. For example, the cost of aluminum ingots can range from $1,700 to $2,500 per ton, which significantly impacts the final price.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the importance of aluminum cans, the production process, labor and energy expenses, and the environmental impact of can manufacturing.

two aluminum cans next to each other

The Importance of Aluminum Cans

Aluminum cans play a crucial role in the beverage industry due to their lightweight, durable, and recyclable nature. 

They help reduce transportation costs and emissions, maintain product freshness, and contribute to a circular economy. 

By understanding the production costs and the environmental impact, you can make better decisions when it comes to choosing and disposing of beverage packaging or help you determine whether starting an aluminum can production business is feasible for you.

Raw Materials Cost: Where Aluminum Comes From

Aluminum is derived from bauxite, an ore primarily found in countries like Australia, Guinea, Brazil, and Jamaica. The cost of aluminum production can vary depending on the location and availability of bauxite, as well as fluctuating global market prices, much like in the steel manufacturing industry.

Here, we’ll break down the costs associated with the raw materials needed to produce aluminum cans.

  1. Bauxite Mining. The first step in producing aluminum is extracting bauxite from the earth. The cost of bauxite mining can range from $15 to $30 per ton, depending on factors like the location and depth of the deposit.
  2. Alumina Refining. Bauxite is then refined into alumina, a white powdery substance. This process can cost between $170 and $350 per ton of alumina, which includes expenses for energy, chemicals, and labor.
  3. Aluminum Smelting. Alumina is smelted into aluminum using the Hall-Héroult process. The cost of this step depends on factors like energy prices, labor expenses, and technology used, but it can range from $1,000 to $1,500 per ton of aluminum.
  4. Aluminum Ingots. The smelted aluminum is cast into ingots, which are later used to produce aluminum cans. The cost of aluminum ingots varies with market prices and can range from $1,700 to $2,500 per ton.

To give you an idea of how these costs translate to aluminum can production, here’s a table that breaks down the costs:

ComponentCost per TonCost per Can (assuming 33 grams/1.16oz per can)
Bauxite Mining$15 – $30$0.0005 – $0.001
Alumina Refining$170 – $350$0.0056 – $0.0115
Aluminum Smelting$1,000 – $1,500$0.033 – $0.0495
Aluminum Ingots$1,700 – $2,500$0.0561 – $0.0825

Please note that these are approximate figures, and actual costs may vary depending on the specific circumstances of each production facility. However, this table provides a general idea of the cost breakdown for producing aluminum cans.

The Production Process and Associated Costs

The production process of aluminum cans consists of several stages, each with its own associated costs. Let’s explore these stages in detail and discuss the expenses involved.

  1. Can Sheet Production. Aluminum ingots are heated, rolled, and stretched into thin sheets. These sheets are then coated with a thin layer of protective material to prevent corrosion. The cost of can sheet production can vary depending on factors like energy prices, equipment maintenance, and labor costs. On average, this stage can account for $0.03 to $0.05 per can.
  2. Can Forming. The aluminum sheets are cut into circular shapes and stamped into can bodies using high-speed presses. The tops and bottoms of the cans are also formed in this stage. The costs associated with can forming include equipment, maintenance, and labor expenses. This step may contribute an additional $0.02 to $0.04 per can.
  3. Printing and Decorating. Aluminum cans are printed with brand logos and designs using high-speed printers. This process requires specialized inks and equipment. The cost of printing and decorating can vary depending on the complexity of the design and the volume of cans produced, but typically ranges from $0.01 to $0.03 per can.
  4. Quality Control and Packaging. Before shipping, cans undergo rigorous quality control to ensure they meet industry standards. The cans are then packaged and prepared for transportation. The costs for quality control, packaging materials, and labor in this stage can add another $0.01 to $0.02 per can.

Here’s a table summarizing the production process costs:

Production StageCost per Can
Can Sheet Production$0.03 – $0.05
Can Forming$0.02 – $0.04
Printing and Decorating$0.01 – $0.03
Quality Control & Packaging$0.01 – $0.02

Once again, the costs in the table are approximate and may vary depending on the specific circumstances of each production facility. Still, this table provides a general idea of the cost breakdown for each stage of aluminum can production.

These costs can be compared to similar cost breakdowns in steel manufacturing.

By examining the production process and its costs, we can identify areas for improvement and support innovations that lead to more sustainable and efficient manufacturing.

a box of finished aluminum cans with drinks inside

Labor and Energy Expenses

Labor and energy are two significant components of aluminum can production costs. In this section, we will delve into these expenses and provide insights into how they impact the overall cost of making aluminum cans.

  • Labor Expenses. The production of aluminum cans is a labor-intensive process that involves several stages, including mining, refining, smelting, and manufacturing. The cost of labor can vary significantly depending on the location of the production facility, the size of the workforce, and local labor laws. On average, labor expenses account for approximately $0.02 to $0.04 per can.
  • Energy Expenses. Aluminum can production requires a substantial amount of energy, particularly during the smelting and rolling processes. The cost of energy can be influenced by factors such as local energy prices, the efficiency of the production facility, and the use of renewable energy sources. Energy expenses can contribute an additional $0.03 to $0.05 per can.

Here’s a table summarizing the labor and energy expenses:

Expense TypeCost per Can
Labor Expenses$0.02 – $0.04
Energy Expenses$0.03 – $0.05

Remember that the costs here are approximate, but this table provides a general idea of the cost breakdown for labor and energy expenses in aluminum can production.

Environmental Impact and Recycling Initiatives: Cost Implications

While the environmental impact of aluminum cans is an important concern, it is also directly linked to production costs. 

Recycling initiatives help reduce the cost of raw materials, and investments in eco-friendly practices can lead to long-term cost savings. Let’s explore how these factors influence aluminum can production costs.

Aluminum recycling can significantly decrease the cost of raw materials, as it requires only 5% of the energy needed to produce aluminum from bauxite. This reduction in energy consumption translates to lower production costs and, consequently, more affordable aluminum cans. 

Moreover, recycling initiatives can help companies access government incentives and tax breaks, further reducing production expenses.

Investments in eco-friendly practices, such as adopting renewable energy sources and implementing waste reduction strategies, may have upfront costs but can lead to long-term savings, as seen in other industries like LED production.

These initiatives not only reduce the environmental impact of aluminum can production but also contribute to a more sustainable and cost-efficient manufacturing process.

Here’s a great video showcasing step-by-step how an aluminum can is made:


Are aluminum cans environmentally friendly?

Aluminum cans can be considered environmentally friendly due to their recyclability, lightweight nature, and reduced transportation emissions compared to other packaging materials.

How are aluminum cans recycled?

Aluminum cans are recycled by collecting and sorting used cans, crushing and shredding them, melting the aluminum, and casting it into new sheets or ingots. These new aluminum materials are then used to produce new cans or other aluminum products, completing the recycling loop.

Are there any alternatives to aluminum cans for beverage packaging?

Some alternatives to aluminum cans for beverage packaging include glass bottles, plastic bottles, and Tetra Paks. Each option has its pros and cons in terms of recyclability, weight, and environmental impact.

How do aluminum can production costs affect beverage prices?

Aluminum can production costs directly influence beverage prices in this way: lower production costs for aluminum cans can lead to more affordable beverages for consumers, while increased costs due to raw materials or energy prices can result in higher retail prices.

  • Alex

    Alex is the founder and driving force behind the blog you're reading. As a lifelong spender with a keen eye for making informed financial decisions, he's dedicated to analyzing the economy and digging deep into online data for valuable insights. With a passion for sharing financial wisdom, he equips readers with practical advice and useful tips for a better financial future. In his free time, Alex enjoys the outdoors and a good book.