Production Methods 3 Recycling

Aluminium is by far the easiest metal to recycle, and it makes both economic and environmental sense. Every 1kg of aluminium recycled saves approximately 8kg bauxite, 4kg process chemicals and 14kWh of electricity. The energy used to make each kg of recycled aluminium is only 5% of that needed to make primary ("new") aluminium.
When good practice is applied, the quality of recycled aluminium is the same as primary metal, and so closed-loop recycling is possible. This means old vehicle engine blocks are turned into new ones, old cans into new cans and so on. This is important because most aluminium products are made from a range of alloys.

Recycling Rates

All processing and manufacturing waste is recycled, and has been for some time. Process waste includes trimmings from edges of rolled sheets, ingots and extrusions. Manufacturing waste includes swarf from drilling and machining, and other off-cuts.

diagram: aluminium manufacture and recycling

Aluminium is also recovered from vehicles, trains, aeroplanes, ships and buildings at the end of their useful life. Most of this is recycled.graph: aluminium recycling rates

image: 27 tonne ingot

graph: UK aluminium can recycling rates

Post-consumer waste

Post-consumer waste is the most difficult to recycle because it needs to be collected. Consumers need to be encouraged to separate recyclable waste and take it to suitable collection points. Many local councils are now organising recycling schemes in parallel with refuse collection, but this still relies on the individual household being prepared to cooperate.
Incentive schemes for aluminium can collection have been very successful, and each year some £12 million (UK) is raised for schools and charities by collecting empty cans for recycling. The ALCAN aluminium processing company has a dedicated can recycling plant at Warrington, UK, capable of re-processing all the cans currently sold in the UK.
image: collected can for recycling

image: engine block
image: aluminium ingot

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