Aluminium offers solutions to many of Europe’s sustainability challenges. It is light, strong and infinitely recyclable. A combination of technological advances and voluntary environmental efforts by aluminium producers and consumers make aluminium a key driver of Europe’s transition to a sustainable and circular economy. From packaging to mobility, aluminium is the material of choice for environmentally conscious companies. FACE takes a look at the latest sustainability trends spurring aluminium production and consumption.
More and more companies are seeking to obtain external recognition of their environmental credentials. As a key actor in setting industrial standards, global certification organisation The Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI) plays a fundamental role in encouraging the aluminium industry to achieve high levels of sustainable production, material chain-of-custody procedures, recycling, and social impacts related to aluminium production. The Aluminium Stewardship Initiative’s Performance Standards provide a benchmark for aluminium producers to increase their sustainability standards and obtain globally recognised certifications. In this vein, more and more companies are releasing their sustainability reports. This year, the Emirates Global Aluminium followed the trend with its first-ever performance report, and Austria’s Constantia Teich became the first aluminium roller certified by ASI for its responsible sourcing standards.
Buoyed by the need to reduce carbon footprints across the board, environmentally friendly aluminium producers are switching to renewable energy and turning away from legacy fuels. So far this year, Norwegian major Norsk Hydro signed a number of wind power contracts to power the company’s primary aluminium plants. Similarly, Russia’s Rusal is promoting its environmental credentials with ALLOW aluminium, a product line made exclusively from renewable hydropower. This trend not only enables companies to reduce their carbon footprint and meet the Paris Agreement goals, but also gives them a competitive advantage over aluminium produced in China – where smelters rely on coal for 90 per cent of their energy demand.
This summer, CanO Water’s innovative idea of selling water in aluminium cans reached the masses thanks to a leading grocery chain in the UK. Thanks to growing global demand, aluminium beverage cans are now competing with plastic and glass bottles at the time when plastic-free campaigns are unfolding in Europe and initiatives like Every Can Counts have helped to increase aluminium can recycling rate to nearly 100% in some European countries. Easily recycled and lightweight, aluminium packaging also helps to reduce shipping costs and carbon emission for beverage makers. The average weight of a beverage can has been reduced by more than a third the last 20 years. Moreover, Nespresso is successfully implementing its own programme to foster aluminium coffee capsule recycling across Europe.
From bikes to spaceships, aluminium is used for all types of vehicles. Transport accounts for the largest share of aluminium consumption: 27 per cent. The figure will continue to grow as carmakers are increasingly favouring the development of new lightweight vehicle models. Experts project that by 2025 average aluminium content in a cars will reach 250 kg while it was only 35 kg in the 1970s. The research firm Ducker Worldwide predicts that nearly 25 per cent of doors, 71 per cent hoods and 54 per cent bumper beams will be made from aluminium in three years time.
At the same time, aluminium makes up to 80 per cent of a modern aircraft and aluminium alloys, which are 70 per cent lighter than steel, are in strong demand in the aviation sector. As the fastest growing automotive material, aluminium parts are helping to create lighter and more fuel-efficient vehicles. In so doing, aluminium helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions around the globe.
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