Beverage can

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
0.5 l beer cans made of tinplate (FE) with stay-on-tab closure and P-deposit symbol (now out of date), Germany, 2006

Beverage cans in addition to bottles and beverage cartons , the most important trade packaging for drinks and serve occasionally at the same time as drinking vessel . They are mainly used for carbonated beverages such as canned beer and soft drinks (especially cola , other lemonades and energy drinks ) and are opened using a pull tab .


Opening a beverage can

Modern beverage cans consist of a one-piece, cylindrical container made of aluminum or tinplate and a folded lid made of aluminum with an oval score line and a riveted metal tab , which, as a "built-in can opener", presses the scored oval into the inside of the can using leverage, creating a spout - or drinking opening generated ( stay-on tab ). The most common can sizes in Europe are 0.33 and 0.5 liters; a whole liter is also less common.

There are also five-liter cans for beer with a tap that are marketed as party kegs . Party kegs are also available with an integrated carbonator with carbonic acid supply, so that the beer stays fresh for several weeks after being tapped. The carbonic acid also serves as a propellant for the integrated dispenser.

Beverage cans must have an internal pressure resistance of 6.2 bar . The inwardly curved base gives you a safety reserve; before the can bursts, the bottom bulges outwards, increasing the volume, reducing the pressure.

Since 2003 there has been a deposit for one-way beverage packaging in Germany, the so-called one - way deposit . It applies to packaging with a capacity of 0.1 to three liters and is 25 cents. The deposit import is based on the life cycle assessments of the Federal Environment Agency from 1995, 2000 and 2002, on the basis of which the beverage cans and one-way bottles were classified by the Federal Environment Agency as ecologically disadvantageous packaging compared to reusable systems .


The broad application of the beverage can as number three among the packaging variants for beverages is primarily due to the fact that the consumer can use unbreakable beverage packaging with a low weight. For the manufacturers of beverages, in addition to these advantages, the barrier effect of this packaging material is also decisive, since the neutrality to aromas and the light protection effect offer good protection for sensitive products. The pasteurisability of the can also makes it possible to achieve a long shelf life for the drinks in this packaging for export . On the other hand, there are the disadvantages of the packaging, in particular its resealability, which is usually not realized. The hygienic cleanliness when drinking directly from the can or when pouring is not given, because depending on storage and transport, adhering dirt on the outer surface is touched or overflowed.

Manufacturing process

Production begins with wetting a tinplate or aluminum strip with an ironing agent (lubricant) and cutting out suitable disks from which the body is drawn .

First, a flat bowl is created, which is pushed in the ironing machine over a ram through several, increasingly narrower extraction rings - in the process, the bowl is deformed into an ever longer and thinner-walled can. At the end of the ironing machine, the bottom is shaped by a punch. The blank is then trimmed and washed to remove the ironing agent. Then the can is first painted from the outside and then printed on a rubber blanket in one operation. The rubber blanket already contains the entire motif in all colors, these were transferred to the blanket in previous work steps using the letterpress printing process. After drying, the interior is painted with a spray gun and then dried again.

The interior coating serves as corrosion protection and thus to avoid changes in the taste of the contents. The potentially harmful bisphenol A (BPA) is released from the inner coating of the majority of the cans, which subsequently migrates to the contents and contaminates them.

To accommodate the lid, which is smaller in diameter, the can rim is drawn in in several steps using molding tools so that the can is slightly tapered in the upper area. To ensure a secure connection with the lid, the edge of the can still has to be crimped , i.e. bent outwards.

After a separate coating of the bottom and possibly a second interior coating, the beverage cans are ready for the bottling plant, where the lid is crimped onto the filled cans. The flanged edge of the can is folded over once and that of the lid twice, so that the connection consists of five metal layers encompassing each other in a form-fitting manner.

The production of a can costs eight cents on average. Tinplate cans and aluminum cans are about the same price.

Ecological aspects

The beverage can is controversial in terms of its ecological balance . See also the aspects of the life cycle assessment of aluminum.

Washed up rusted beverage can


The entry into force of the compulsory deposit on beverage cans in Germany in 2003 led to a significantly improved degree of coverage and cleaner material flows. While the response rate in 1995 was an estimated 25%, it rose after the introduction of the mandatory deposit in Germany. According to the Metal Packaging Europe association, it was 98 out of 100 cans sold in 2016 . The number of beverage cans thrown away in the environment - in 1998 their share was still more than 13% of objects found or 3.4% "visible surface" and thus clearly ahead of other beverage packaging - fell after the introduction of the mandatory deposit.

The recycling of can scrap saves 90–95% of the energy used for aluminum and approx. 40% for tinplate, which is required to produce new metal. However, the initial production of aluminum is extremely energy-intensive, so that 10% of the remaining energy consumption for aluminum recycling is still almost as much in absolute terms as 60% for iron recycling, for example. In the case of aluminum recycling, recycling itself generates hazardous waste and since various alloying elements (e.g. magnesium) are not removed during aluminum recycling, the aluminum that is recovered is of inferior quality than the aluminum used in can production ( downcycling ). When recycling tinplate cans, the tin layer is usually lost.

The share of recycled aluminum in the total global use of the metal is currently 22%. With increasing demand, for example due to the increased use of beverage cans, this proportion will change little in the coming decades. How much recycled aluminum or tinplate is contained in a beverage can is not exactly known. In 2012, beverage can manufacturer Bell Packaging named a share of around 50% for beverage cans.

LCA comparison with other beverage packaging

In a life cycle assessment comparing different beverage packaging based on three case studies from 2010, the IFEU Institute comes to the following conclusion:

  1. For regional beers, returnable glass containers are still the most ecologically beneficial system; regardless of different methodological approaches.
  2. In the case of beers that are sold nationwide, the result changes depending on the method used, with which the aluminum obtained in recycling is counted. With a credit of 50%, as assumed by the Federal Environment Agency, the reusable glass bottle scores better. There is no clear dividing line for the 100% crediting of 100% required by the client beverage industry for the study.
  3. When using individual returnable glass bottles as well as national marketing of flopped trend and premium beers (assuming a low number of returnable bottles in circulation) with transport distances of over 400 km, beverage cans can achieve ecological impact profiles comparable to those of returnable.

According to a study by Deutsche Umwelthilfe, the IFEU study was based on unrealistic values ​​for transport distances and circulation figures. A study by the Society for Packaging Market Research (GVM) showed, however, that long transport distances of more than 400 km are not unrealistic and affect 17.3% of returnable containers for beer. The GVM calculations are based on representative consumer data from the Gesellschaft für Konsumforschung (GfK). The IFEU institute itself felt compelled to publish a handout that is supposed to guarantee the correct interpretation because of incorrect interpretations of its study by stakeholders.

According to a press release published by the Federal Environment Agency in 2010, cans continue to do poorly from an ecological point of view compared to reusable beverage packaging.

According to the environmental organization Greenpeace cause aluminum beverage cans in the preparation of the three-fold CO 2 emissions from returnable bottles made of glass or the six-fold CO 2 emissions of reusable bottles made of plastic, also a half times (mass) occurs at red mud as a waste product.

Beverage cans are thrown away on pastures, the doses are in the mowing shredded by the mowers into small pieces. If cattle then ingest the razor-sharp can pieces with the feed, this can lead to their death.


Different can openings

The idea of offering beverages in cans stems from the prohibition era in the USA. After the end of 1933, the Gottfried Krueger Brewing Company was the first to offer canned beer. Standard tin cans were used, which came with an opener with which a triangular opening could be pushed into the lid. After a test phase, Krueger canned beers were also offered nationwide, and by 1935 the brewery was able to increase its sales by over 500 percent. In the same year, the then largest US brewery Schlitz developed a bottle-like beverage can with a conical lid and an opening closed by a crown cap , the so-called Cone Top Can .

Opener for closeless beverage cans (left, called
churchkey ) and crown caps (right)

The beverage can was offered in this form in 1937 by Schmalbach-Lubeca (today Ball Packaging Europe ) in Germany, but was initially not widely used, as metals were soon given preference to the armaments industry. After the end of the Second World War , Schmalbach-Lubeca resumed production in Germany in 1951, this time with simpler cans made of three parts (base, body and lid) that did without the crown cap. They were initially made from black plate. The first (test) cans of soft drinks were produced in the USA in 1936 and contained Coca-Cola . In Germany, Coca-Cola was bottled in cans for the first time in 1963, followed by Fanta Orange (lemonade with orange juice) and Fanta Lemon (lemonade with citrus extracts) in 1965.

The first aluminum beverage cans went on sale in 1958. With them, the body and base consisted of one piece, which also made it unnecessary to fold open a separate base. They were initially extruded ; from 1966 deep-drawn aluminum cans came onto the market.

A "ring pull" from the 1970s

In the course of the further development of the beverage can, its weight has been steadily reduced through material and production optimization. While a 0.33 liter beverage can weighed around 100 grams in the 1930s and over 80 grams in the 1950s, a modern aluminum can with a 0.5 liter content now only weighs around 16 grams, which corresponds to around half the weight of its tinplate counterpart. A single gram less weight of the can saves around 54,000 tons of metal per year with a total European market volume of around 54 billion pieces. It should be technically possible to manufacture beverage cans with a wall thickness of just 0.097 millimeters. The world's largest manufacturer of beverage cans is Rexam .

Since 1962 there have also been beverage cans with drinking openings that could be opened without tools - a metal strip, called a lift tab , could be torn off the drinking opening by hand. It was replaced by the ring pull system invented by Ermal Fraze (which he had patented in 1963), in which an oval area of ​​the lid marked by a scratch line with a riveted metal tab, later in the form of a ring, could be torn out. Today's beverage cans usually have the stay-on tab , invented by Dan Cudzik in 1974 , in which this area is not torn out, but pressed into the inside of the can. The Stay-On-Tab was first used by the Falls City Brewing Company from Louisville, Kentucky. In Austria it was particularly widespread from the 1990s onwards. In addition, in the mid-1990s there were beverage cans with an additional drinking opening system: Two small metal “buttons” had to be pressed into the can. First the smaller one, which served as an air inlet, then the larger one as a drinking opening.

In 2007, in a test phase in Germany, a beverage can developed by Ball Packaging Europe with the resealable Ball Resealable End (BRE) lid was offered for the first time. The plastic cap must be turned counterclockwise to open and clockwise to close. This plastic and aluminum lid goes back to a patent application by Antonio Perra. With the energy drink Relentless produced by Coca-Cola , cans with this lid went into series production for the first time in Germany in 2009. The resealable beverage can is the same as the "half-liter can" in terms of its shape, size and stackability, but has a reduced content of only 485 ml. Since the beginning of 2012, a further development of the resealable lid (the "BRE +") has been on the market with the It is now also possible to pasteurize beverages, as is necessary, for example, with the fruit-juice- containing Relentless varieties Devotion and Immortus . Since 2013, however, Coca-Cola has not used the resealable lid at Relentless for “corporate strategy reasons”.

With thermochromic (temperature-dependent) printing inks, can decorations take on an infotainment character. The decor changes depending on the temperature. This temperature-dependent interaction is achieved by adding special color pigments to the printing inks. In 2010, the Molson Coors Brewing Company (MCBC) in Great Britain launched the first product filled in thermochromic beverage cans from Ball Packaging Europe.

The self-cooling beverage can has also been invented. Although a small amount of cooling occurs when every pressurized container, including a carbonated beverage can (according to Gay-Lussac's law ) is opened, a special beverage can can also be reduced by 15–20 Kelvin using a spiral-shaped gas cartridge that relaxes when opened cooled down so that pre-cooling in the refrigerator is no longer necessary.

Dimensions and packaging

There used to be standard sizes for everyday products. Over time, the pack sizes for more and more products have been deregulated. With the implementation of the EU decision on the complete release of pack sizes, there have only been restrictions for wine, sparkling wine and spirits in Germany and Austria since April 11, 2009. There are the main dimensions 330 and 500 ml, the traditional standard dimensions of 150, 200 and 250 ml for certain product groups (coffee specialties, prosecco, energy drinks) and applications (e.g. aircraft) and the newer, more creative and possibly logistics-supporting dimensions.

The popular 330 and 500 ml beverage cans have a diameter of 67 mm. The height of the 330 ml variant is 115 mm, that of the 500 ml variant 168 mm. The resealable 485 ml beverage cans have the same external dimensions as the 500 ml beverage cans.

Since 1987 , Red Bull has set a standard with 250 ml, especially for energy drinks . This size is also used for more specialized drinks such as mango juice. They are narrower and taller, 53 mm in diameter and 135 mm in height. Red Bull has been available in the same proportions since 2007 in 355 ml and since 2009 in 473 ml (63 mm × 180 mm).

Since 2006, however, the so-called 330 ml Sleek Can has been increasingly offered in Germany, mainly by Coca-Cola . It is narrower and taller than the classic 330 ml can, has a diameter of 58 mm and a height of 146 mm.

Other sizes common around the world are 0.15 liters (e.g. in some airliners), 0.25 liters, 0.355 liters (corresponds to twelve ounces; regular size e.g. in the USA ), 0.44 liters (including beer in Great Britain and Ireland) and 0.47 liters (e.g. Guinness ), 0.34 liters in southern Africa. There are other sizes that are rarely used.

In addition to the above Materials are also used to a very limited extent, polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and coated cardboard for beverage can manufacture.

Beverage cans are usually available in retail as individual containers and are delivered in open or foil-wrapped cardboard trays in units of 24 or less often 18 pieces. They are often also available in multipacks with different packs of pieces. The best known and most widespread is the so-called six-pack or the six- pack , in which the cans are arranged in two rows of three cans each. There were and are also packs of three (1 × 3 cans), four (2 × 2), eight (2 × 4) and twelve packs (3 × 4). While the multipacks were made of cardboard in the past, foil is increasingly used today for reasons of cost. Multipacks are often offered with a price advantage compared to individual purchases in order to promote higher sales. In some cases, six-packs are also expanded by two more cans and offered as 6 + 2 free eight-packs. Here the customer pays the price of six cans and the one-way deposit of eight cans.

Number of beverage cans on a Euro pallet using the example of the 0.33 l Sleek can:

  • Doses per tray: 24
  • Trays per layer: 11
  • Layers per pallet: 9
  • Trays per pallet: 99
  • Cans per pallet: 2376
  • Dimensions in mm L × W × H: 119.8 × 83.5 × 147.6

Market development


Before the introduction of the mandatory deposit, the sales figures in Germany were over 8 billion units before 2003. As a result of the compulsory deposit, they fell to well below 1 billion cans. Recently, food retailers have been adding more beverage cans to their range. At the end of May 2010, Penny-Markt and Netto Marken-Discount announced their return to the can and at the beginning of June 2013 Norma followed after they had only waited for the market to develop. Cans also simplify logistics for discounters: They are lighter, easier to stack and more space-efficient than glass and PET bottles, and they are stable and compact.

In 2011, for the first time since the introduction of the deposit, over a billion cans were sold in Germany. In 2014 sales reached around 1.8 billion. In 2016, sales in Germany increased further to 2.5 billion units.


For the first time in 2013, more than a third of all beer was sold in beverage cans. The brewery association puts the share at 33.4% in its statistics. In 2004 it was 16.4%. The increase is at the expense of returnable bottles and the draft beer sold in pickles.

Health aspects

Web links

Commons : Beverage Cans  - Collection of images, videos, and audio files
Wiktionary: Beverage can  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations


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