Recycling is an indispensable part of the aluminium industry which is both viable and sensible economically, technically and ecologically. Fortunately Aluminium is one metal that is 100% recyclable and its natural quality does not get affected in the recycling process. Aluminium is widely used in daily life. With the growing use of aluminium beverage cans in every household, aluminium recycling is becoming a matter of concern for the people all over the world.
Recycling also needs less energy and aluminium can be reproduced with only 5% of the total energy used to produce aluminium from bauxite ore. The scrap aluminium is melted to get back the metal. The process involves much lesser cost. Even the ash like oxide produced during the melting process can be used for extracting aluminium. Though recycled aluminium is called secondary aluminium, it carries the same physical properties as primary aluminium. Interestingly, approximately 31% of all aluminium produced in the United States comes from recycled scrap. Secondary aluminium is produced in a wide range of formats and is employed heavily in alloy injections and extrusion. As recycling does not damage the metal’s structure, aluminium has the potentiality to be recycled indefinitely and it is used in manufacturing any downstream products for which primary aluminium is used.
It is the environmental issue of recycled aluminium which needs to be addressed strongly. The amount of carbon dioxide produced during the smelting of aluminium from alumina is much more as it involves more energy. Recycled aluminium could be said to create 5% of the carbon dioxide produced in the creation from raw materials. This means lesser carbon footprint on the earth. So, efficient production and recycling can benefit the environment to a considerable extent.
The economic importance of aluminium recycling cannot be neglected as the total output of the recycling industry increased from 1.2 million to 3.7 million in 20 years. Though the primary production remains more or less stable, the recycling industry grew by a massive 94%.
This is the reason that big names like Alcoa, Norsk Hydro or Rio Tinto are heavily into recycling. There are various recycling campaign promoted by such big aluminium producers that can create awareness about the process. In a national recycling campaign, school children across Norway have collected millions of used aluminium tea cups. The campaign has been started by WWF in collaboration with IKEA and Hydro. Nina Jensen of WWF remarked that the campaign reveals a way to minimize carbon dioxide emissions and to reuse the resources. It creates awareness about natural resources and the environment and the value of recycling. Alcoa has been advocating recycling for pretty long. While aluminium represents just 2% of US recyclables, on average it generates 40% of the revenues necessary to maintain recycling programs. Alcoa says that the recovery and recycling of 75% of cans used in the US would be enough to eliminate the need for two coal-fired power plants and that is pretty amazing.
In Europe, aluminium enjoys high recycling rates, ranging from 41 % in beverage cans to 85 % in building and construction and 95 % in transportation. Since the material can be recycled indefinitely without loss of quality, there are strong natural incentives to recover and recycle aluminium products after use. A large majority of recycled aluminium is consumed by the transport sector. The other main markets are engineering, packaging and building.
Efficient recycling can benefit the environment and economy to a considerable extent and it becomes a responsibility for the manufacturers to promote recycling seriously. Recycling of aluminium products at the end of their useful life extends their value and gives a new lease of life which is no less than the former in any aspect.