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With buildings and the building construction sector combined now responsible for over a third of the globe’s energy usage, there has been a growing call for greater sustainability across the industry1. Also, more and more people are now concerned about the environment and looking for ways to reduce their impact. As a result, businesses around the world are listening to consumers and are joining the green movement. One way construction companies are changing their approach is by using more raw materials in their products that have a lower environmental impact. Named the green metal, aluminium has become a popular choice due to its high performance and environmentally friendly features.  

Climate change the top priority 

Man-made climate change continues to be the defining issue of recent times and the greatest threat to life on earth. From shifting weather patterns to rising sea levels, climate change is happening at an unprecedented rate. As a result, one of the aluminium industry’s main goals is to produce metal in a way that generates the smallest carbon footprint possible. Across the industry, many providers have taken the initiative and made great strides in reducing greenhouse gas emissions during aluminium production. 

Leading from the front, producers in Europe and North America have made big developments in reducing the emissions associated with aluminium. One way they have done so is with the introduction of hydropower. By using this clean, renewable energy to produce aluminium they have significantly lowered the amount of COemitted. As a result, hydropower has reduced emissions by around half2. Furthermore, hydropower is now used to make more than 75% of the aluminium in Europe as well as North and South America3In addition, with the highest Recycling Efficiency Rate (RER) in the world, Europe recycles 81% of aluminium scrap available in the region4. Therefore, as green options of production grow, the industry continues to develop more eco-friendly processes in the manufacturing of aluminium.  

100% recyclable  

Infinitely recyclable, it only takes 5% of the energy needed to produce primary aluminium to recycle it. Also, aluminium recycling reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 95% compared to primary aluminium production5. The International Aluminium Industry (IAI) adopted a global sustainability programme in 2009, named the Aluminium for Future Generations Initiative. The initiative’s primary objective is “for the aluminium industry to continue its global growth, whilst optimising environmental performance.” The initiative addresses the full life cycle of aluminium and reinforces the industrys commitment to building a sustainable future.  

With almost 75% of the aluminium ever produced worldwide still in use today, it is clear to see this green metal provides an impressive eco-friendly solution6. Furthermore, aluminium can be melted down and recycled over and over again without any loss of quality or properties. The University of Delft’s findings reinforces the high quality of recycled aluminium. The university proved that aluminium used in building and construction has a recycling rate between 92% and 98%7. Moreover, when using the correct technology. the quality of this recycled product is equal to the primary metal.  

In addition, aluminium is an “energy bank”, recovering most of the original input every time the product is recycled. Therefore, reclaiming the energy used in primary production during the repeated recycling process. Furthermore, recycling one tonne of aluminium can save over 16 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions globally, significantly reducing the industry’s environmental impact8. With 20 million tonnes of recycled aluminium produced in 2019 around the world, secondary aluminium is helping to reduce climate change whilst delivering a robust versatile building material9 

To conclude

As the aluminium industry continues to invest and develop new and more sustainable processes and recycling rates of aluminium remain high, the future of this green metal looks promising. More and more focus is being put on sustainable construction and how the built environment can reduce its carbon impact. 

 

References: 

1) ttps://www.iea.org/topics/buildings  

2) https://aluminiuminsider.com/leaders-emerge-in-the-aluminim-industrys-race-to-zero-carbon/

3) ttps://www.iea.org/reports/aluminium 

4) https://www.world-aluminium.org/media/filer_public/2020/10/20/wa_factsheet_final.pdf 

5) https://www.world-aluminium.org/media/filer_public/2013/01/15/fl0000181.pdf 

6) https://www.aluminum.org/aluminum-advantage/facts-glance 

7) http://www.alfed.org.uk/files/Fact%20sheets/5-aluminium-recycling.pdf 

8) https://www.world-aluminium.org/media/filer_public/2020/10/20/wa_factsheet_final.pdf 

9) https://recycling.world-aluminium.org/review/global-metal-flow/#:~:text=The%20amount%20of%20aluminium%20produced,end%2Dof%2Dlife%20products. 

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