The importance of aluminium recycling.
Aluminium manufacturers recycle aluminium because it is better than manufacturing it from scratch. For one, aluminium is completely recyclable and the metal can be melted down and reused repeatedly without any loss of material or quality to produce the same quantity of aluminium plate, aluminium coil and aluminium pipe.
The recycling of aluminium has early beginnings. It started back in the early 1900s, which skyrocketed during World War 2 – but it wasn’t until the late 1960s before recycling the public became aware of the importance of aluminium recycling, especially aluminium cans.
Recycling aluminium greatly reduces the amount of greenhouse gas emissions released into the atmosphere. A tonne of recycled aluminium prevents the creation and release of 9 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions. Carbon dioxide is the largest contributing greenhouse gas to global warming today making up 72% of the total, followed by 18% methane and 9% nitrous oxide.
Aside from greenhouse gas emissions, producing new aluminium from bauxite processing also releases contaminating particulates such as combustion by-products, caustic aerosols, dust, alumina and sodium salts.
Mining activities also have very deleterious effects on the environment. It completely destroys the natural vegetation around the mining site which not only causes enormous losses in biodiversity of the surrounding area but also soil erosion and nutrient loss/leeching. The by-products from mining activities can also contaminate local water sources.
The manufacturing process of aluminium from raw materials is a complex process uses a lot of energy and water. It takes about 7.5 kilowatt/hours to produce 0.45kg of aluminium from bauxite ore. Recycling aluminium only takes about 5% of that. Thus, aluminium manufacturers save a lot of money and energy from recycling and many are willing to buy scrap aluminium commands a high price.
With so many products today being made of aluminium imagine the impact it would have if aluminium recycling were to become more widespread. At the moment, Brazil ranks as the world’s largest recycler, with 98.2% of its aluminium can production recycled each year. Hopefully we’ll see more aluminium companies in Malaysia do the same!