Recycling is critical to sustainable development.
It allows resources to be saved and waste to be reduced. Used aluminium is valuable – it is easily and endlessly recycled without quality loss. Aluminium makes a major and unique contribution to support product recycling into the future and to the benefit of society as a whole.
Recycling is a major consideration in continued aluminium use, representing one of the key attributes of this ubiquitous metal, with far-reaching economic, ecological and social implications.
More than half of all the aluminium currently produced in the European Union (EU-27) originates from recycled raw materials and that trend is on the increase.
In view of growing end-use demand and a lack of sufficient domestic primary aluminium production in this part of the world, Europe has a huge stake in maximising the collection of all available aluminium, and developing the most resource-efficient scrap treatments and melting processes.
The importance of efficient aluminium recycling will even further increase in the future because of rising energy constraints in this region of the world and recycling aluminium saves up to 95% of the energy required for primary production.
Aluminium in recycling: a profitable business activity!
Aluminium scrap has considerable market value because the energy needed for primary production is stored, to a large extent, in the metal itself and, consequently, in the scrap too. Therefore, the energy needed to melt aluminium scrap is only a fraction of that required for primary aluminium production.
Furthermore, it can be recycled again and again without loss of its inherent properties since its atomic structure is not altered during melting.
• Aluminium has unique recycling qualities: the quality of aluminium is not impaired by recycling – it can be repeatedly recycled.
• Aluminium recycling saves energy: remelting used aluminium saves up to 95% of the energy needed to produce the primary product.
• Aluminium recycling is economical: it uses less energy and recycling is self-supported because of the high value of used aluminium.
Aluminium, as part of the solution
• Aluminium helps attain overall recycling targets: its unique recycling potential and intrinsic value means that aluminium is the most cost effective material to recycle. The market for used aluminium is steadily growing. The more aluminium there is in a product, the more chance it has of being recycled.
• The aluminium industry is developing and refining its recycling processes. This ensures that aluminium maintains its position as the most valuable material that can be recycled. The industry researches all economic and environmental factors in order to find the best recycling options.
Recycling rates and recycling initiatives
• The aluminium industry actively provides increased recycling. In Europe aluminium enjoys high recycling rates, ranging from 63 % in beverage cans to more than 90% in building, construction, automotive and transportation. The industry is constantly investing and researching in collection and sorting improvements to achieve the best possible levels of recycling.
• The aluminium industry is focusing on recycling in the context of increased global demand for used aluminium. Economic and environmental qualities of aluminium help meet targets set by stricter environmental legislation and make aluminium the material of choice by consumers. As a result, the demand for aluminium grows: its qualities, such as durability (less strain on resources) and lightness (requires less energy to transport) make it a favoured sustainable choice for transportation and building products.
• The demand therefore for recycled aluminium exceeds supply for given products. The average life-span of aluminium products (12 years in automotive sector, some 30 years in building) also limits the supply of used products. To ensure the best recycling opportunities, the aluminium industry calls for the highest flexibility in recycling.
• The aluminium industry is working towards easier recycling through enhanced product design for recycling and by ever improved efficiency in aluminium recovery processes.