Pile of aluminium being sorted

What are the advantages of recycling aluminium?

Aluminium – we know all about it, benefits and all, but it’s to be expected given the fact we’ve been recycling it for more than three decades.

According to The Aluminium Packaging Recycling Organisation (Alupro), aluminium recycling rates soared to record levels last year. The finding, based on Environment Agency data, showed that aluminium recycling stood at an impressive 68%, which is the equivalent to more than 156 tonnes of aluminium. Furthermore, the data revealed that over 88% of the recycled aluminium was processed within the UK and EU.

From our perspective, this research is echoed throughout our operations. Over the last year, we recycled 30,000 tonnes of aluminium compared to 28,400 tonnes the previous year. And we’ve reported a year-on-year surge over the last ten years, which has led to the volume of recycled material we handle doubling.

Why is aluminium so popular for recycling?

The Environment Agency data clearly highlights aluminium recycling is on the rise, which is to be welcomed. UK and world-wide objectives to achieve net zero by 2025 are no doubt helping fuel this positive step change.

Recycling aluminium is popular for multiple reasons:

  • It makes sense on an economical and environmental scale – aluminium doesn’t degrade during the recycling process, making it extremely sustainable to recycle, much more than many other metals. It takes just 5% of the energy that’s used to make primary aluminium to recycle it
  • It’s fully recyclable – by this, we mean that every single element of aluminium can be recycled and reused. There are no remnants that are left redundant and subsequently wasted. As a result of this, greater carbon savings can be achieved every single time it’s recycled 
  • It can be repeatedly recycled – and its atomic structure will never change, meaning it maintains it high scrap value and still requires minimal energy to recycle it. In fact, around 75% of the 1.5billion tonnes to have ever been produced is still being used as we speak…
  • The benefits of recycling aluminium – are beyond impressive, several of which we’ve listed below

What are the advantages of recycling aluminium?

The benefits of recycling aluminium for businesses, and as a whole, are truly staggering:

From a company perspective:

  1. It can significantly reduce your carbon footprint, and if you use a reputable aluminium recycler, it can help you generate more revenue. It’s not uncommon for aluminium recyclers to be able to offer premium pricing due to the fact they process and deal directly with remelters
  2. It means you can help plug the increased demand for aluminium. More-and-more products are being made from aluminium (see below) and by recycling it, you are helping meet increased demand for it
  3. A large proportion of waste produced only up until recently would have been sent to landfill. Now businesses can recycle everything in bulk – metals, paper, cardboard and wood etc. Even general waste can now find its way to waste-to-energy companies to fuel heating in buildings

From an overall sustainability perspective:

  1. It dramatically reduces the need to mine raw ore. Bauxite is the primary ore, which contains a mix of hydrous aluminium oxides, that are needed to refine aluminium for manufacturing. Recycling one tonne of aluminium saves four tonnes of bauxite
  2. Recycling one tonne of aluminium saves nine tonnes of CO2 emissions. One tonne of CO2 is equivalent to driving 3,500 miles
  3. Aluminium recycling saves greenhouse gases that are the equivalent to a passenger plane making 46,000 round-the-world trips

What can we do with aluminium?

We do a number of different things with the piles of scrap aluminium we take delivery of from factories that produce different types of products on a daily basis.

It’s shredded, baled, cropped, x-rayed, sheered and then segregated. All of this is done using our various pieces of state-of-art-equipment, including our Tomra XRT™ units, which are a world-first sensor-based sorting solution.

Meanwhile, the uses for aluminium are just as widespread as the benefits. We see it in all sorts of forms – cans, stairlift tracks, aluminium roadways, marquee frames, boat masts and lighting units. It’s also present in extruded products, for instance, window frames, and automotive components, such as roof rails.

Aluminium can also be found in iPhones and iPads that contain extruded aluminium components. All of these handsets and devices are fitted with an aluminium heatsink that helps prevent them from overheating.

The true value of aluminium isn’t to be underestimated. And when it comes to aluminium recycling, the vast majority of companies sector-wide can generate widespread successes. Take Origin Global, for instance, thanks to our help, 100% of their scrap is recycled and supporting the circular economy.

For more on the advantages of recycling aluminium, take a look at this article, ‘Q&A: Is it worth recycling aluminium?’

In the meantime, if you have any queries or would like to discuss your aluminium recycling requirements with us, email our Commercial Manager, Ed George, at ed.george@alutrade.co.uk