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Aluminum: A paradox in an element

Chinese worker moves the aluminum pipes at the Qinghai Guoxin Aluminium Industry Incorporated Company workshop on August 20, 2010 in Xining of Qinghai Province, China. 

Most people don’t use a microscope to measure the global economy but that’s exactly what the BBC’s Justin Rowlatt is doing in his new series about chemical elements, "Elementary Business."

The next element on his chart is aluminum (or aluminium to some). Rowlatt gives some paradoxical ways to describe the element, from grey and dull and stable to light, versatile, and flexible. And perhaps most importantly -- it’s a very hard substance that can be used for everything from tin foil to soda-pop cans to cars.

Unlike some of the other elements Rowlatt’s explored in his series, we might actually have enough of it. Very soon, it will be possible to recycle 85 percent of the aluminum that’s produced. It only takes about 60 days to recycle one soda-pop can into another soda-pop can.

"It’s one of the few things you can say ‘well actually one day, we may have enough of, we may not need to dig for it anymore’” says Rowlatt. 

About the author

Justin Rowlatt is the host of Business Daily from the BBC World Service

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