However ‘green fingered’ or not, most of us would probably acknowledge a basic understanding of the way living plants progress through a life cycle, changing their forms as part of the process. Remarkably, for an inanimate material, aluminium also has the sustainable and environmentally friendly capability of changes in form, passing through potentially numerous life cycles by being recycled from one product into another. No wonder aluminium is called the greenest of metals!
For another ‘natural’ analogy you can also consider comparing aluminium with secondary clay. Both materials, originating from the earth’s crust, are in abundant supply; both are solids and yet lend themselves to changes in form through cold working and/or various forms of heat treatment. Interestingly there are clay building products that can be recycled by composting, while aluminium is recycled through re-melting and manufacturing into new shapes and products.
The worldwide annual recycling of aluminium is very much expanding with a three fold increase from 5 million tonnes in the early 1980’s to something in the region of 15 million or more tonnes in the mid naughties. It is currently estimated the construction industry is recovering over 90% of the aluminium used in redundant buildings (96% of the aluminium from the old Wembley Stadium was recycled).
The relatively high value of scrap aluminium helps to ensure a healthy interest in environmentally friendly recycling! In fact, aluminium’s scrap value is such that it is the only packaging material whose value exceeds the costs of its collection and recycling.
Uniquely aluminium can be continuously recycled while preserving its inherent physical properties. Most importantly, there is a 95% saving in the energy required to re-cycle aluminium as compared with original smelter production. With energy being converted rather than created today’s manufactured aluminium results in what is effectively a stored energy resource for future generations. The time will surely come when the world’s aluminium needs will be satisfied solely from recycling rather than from primary production.
Are there any other ‘green’ aluminium issues you would want covered in future blogs? Please add a comment.
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