“Since 1880 when aluminium was first available on a commercial basis, around 75% of the almost 1.5 billion tonnes of aluminium ever produced is still in productive use today”
I think we also need to remind ourselves of more of the key facts, “Aluminium can be recycled for as little as 5% of the energy needed to produce it from the earth’s plentiful resource of raw material, bauxite”, “There is no loss of quality once recycled so aluminium can be recycled many times over” and “Aluminium is non-hazardous, non-flammable and has one of the highest strengths to weight ratios of metals known to man”. With today’s high performance thermal breaks and slim sightlines, aluminium framed systems are often chosen for high thermal performance specifications as used in ‘passivhaus’ construction, further reducing carbon output.
Specifiers have long recognised the benefits of the material and consumers are now appreciating the benefits of aluminium and switching to this long lasting material which continues to have a recycling value once its current product life is over. Recovery of aluminium from recently demolished buildings can be as high as 98%, which, by virtue of its high intrinsic value, reduces the cost of demolition.
The EAA/Delft study back in 2004 confirmed that between 92% and 98% collection rates at the time were achieved in the UK’s building demolition. What is less well known is that if not appropriately separated and sorted, collected scrap can include a mix of various aluminium alloy grades. Whist this mixed recyclate may be used for cast aluminium products, for example, it is usually harder to recycle it into wrought aluminium alloy grades in a ‘closed loop’. Adding to this concern, it is known that a lot of our valuable UK scrap metals are shipped overseas, thus losing a very valuable resource and potential carbon saving in the UK given the low energy needed to convert aluminium back into a new product.