As respected aluminium stockists we know exactly how sustainable the metal is. While aluminum production is energy-intensive, the metal’s low weight, impressive strength and conductivity make it a popular choice in energy saving products, and its re-cyclability cuts its carbon footprint right down. In fact it can be infinitely recycled without losing quality or affecting its properties. Here’s how aluminium fits into the Green scene
About Aluminium products and recycling
More than 90% of the aluminium used in the construction industry is recovered when a building is demolished. The same goes for cars and other vehicles. And aluminium recycling uses just 5% of the energy used in primary production.
Aluminium can be harnessed in an incredibly broad spread of applications when building today’s new ‘green’ cities, something increasingly common in fast-developing nations like China and India. The metal is used in power cables, replacing copper. It’s playing an increasingly important role in a fuel efficient future, being lightweight and strong, able to lower energy costs and carbon emissions in many, many applications.
Take special coated aluminium rooves, for example, which reflect 95% of sunlight, thus dramatically increasing a building’s energy efficiency. Innovative aluminium packaging cuts shipping costs and lowers the carbon emissions drinks manufacturers make. The metal has a 20% lower lifecycle energy consumption level than steel in transport.
Fresh technological advances in the USA have made aluminium more sustainable than ever, with the amount of energy required to produce the metal down more than 25% since the 1990s, and the industry’s carbon footprint has nosedived by an impressive 40% as a result. And a 10% increase in aluminium end-of-life recycling rates cuts industry greenhouse gas emissions by 15%.
Recycling the metal saves around 92% of the energy required to create the same amount of aluminium from scratch. And throwing away an aluminium fizzy drink wastes as much energy as throwing out half of the can’s volume in petrol.
There’s plenty of potential left to exploit, too, especially in the sustainable use of energy. The metal’s famously light weight contributes to increased fuel efficiency in vehicles. Its high light reflectivity improves the energy production efficiency of solar cells. And it’s one of those rare materials that more than pays for its own recycling, 100% recyclable and sustainable.
Aluminium food and drink cans, for example, cycle between the recycling plant and retail outlets over and over again, in a constant loop. While the metal entered the USA’s mainstream product market way back in the early 1900s, almost 75% of all the aluminium ever produced is still being used – all 450 million tonnes of it. In the early 1990s roughly 30% of the USA’s aluminium is created by recycling. Now it’s more than 40%.
The metal is also benefiting big business, specifically their green targets. Take Apple, which has introduced aluminium into its manufacturing process to make it more sustainable and environmentally responsible, using aircraft-grade aluminium to improve their recycling rates. The original goal was to improve their recycling effectiveness from just 9% in 2006 to 28% in 2010, which turned out to be easy. 2009 saw them achieved a 66% recycling rate and their 2015 goal was 70%.
The lifecycle of an aluminium drinks can in the UK is 6 weeks, thanks to the remarkable ‘closed loop’ recycling system that has been developed. In this country we currently recycle 48% of aluminium drinks containers, and 43% of the nation’s demand is fulfilled by recycled metal compared to 39% in mainland Europe. Britain’s recycling rates in other areas are also impressive: 90% for transport, 95% for construction.
Recycling scrap aluminium scrap in Britain and the EU prevents around 90 million tones of greenhouse gas emissions every year, about the same as the annual emissions from 15 million cars. A single kilo of the metal used in an automotive application can easily eliminate 20 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions over the lifetime of the vehicle. And just 100kg less weight in a car saves as much as 0.4 litres of petrol for each 100km driven. Not bad when it’s entirely possible these days to use the metal to reduce the weight of a car by 300 kg, saving as much as 3000 litres of petrol over the vehicle’s lifetime.
How about the new stuff?
The numbers are equally positive, with around 40% of primary aluminium out of a total worldwide production of 40 million tonnes made using renewable hydro-electric power, clean and green.
Next time you come to an aluminium plate suppliers or aluminium sheet suppliers like us, give a nod to a metal that really is changing the world, whose remarkable properties are going a long way towards a more sustainable future.
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