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Chemical element Aluminium in periodic table of elements
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Aluminum Decarbonization

 by Jack McLellan,

The Future of Aluminum Decarbonization

Decarbonization has been a hot topic in many industries over the last few decades. Due to environmental regulations and consumer demand for cleaner energy and production methods, there has been pressure to move to cleaner aluminum production. In the recycling and metalcasting industries, aluminum decarbonization is coming to the forefront of the discussion. 

Aluminum is one of the world’s most high-demand materials because it is reusable, dependable, and used in various applications, from cans and foils to infrastructure and electronics. Aluminum production does come at a cost: high CO2 emissions. As a result, aluminum decarbonization is being tackled from many angles.

The Problem with Aluminum

Aluminum can be recycled infinitely without losing quality, unlike materials such as plastic. This makes aluminum recycling highly sustainable and cost-efficient. Despite this, aluminum production could be more sustainable. Aluminum production has a few critical problems:

  • 16 tons of CO2 emissions are created per ton of aluminum produced
  • 1.1 billion tons of CO2 emissions per year are from aluminum production
    • This is equivalent to 2% of annual global emissions
  • Demand for aluminum is increasing every year

Aluminum is not inherently bad. It is more sustainable than other materials. However, many aluminum products, like soda cans, are created for customers who care about how their items are sourced. People are looking for more sustainably sourced materials. So aluminum decarbonization is vital for manufacturers of cans, car parts, and more. This is why recycling existing aluminum is crucial.

Aluminum Decarbonization Through Recycling

Decarbonizing aluminum through recycling may be one of the best ways to lower CO2 emissions. Aluminum production is unsustainable at the current rate, but that doesn’t make aluminum recycling unsustainable. New aluminum production generates 16 tons of CO2 per ton, and recycling a ton of aluminum produces only 0.5 tons of CO2. That’s 97% less CO2 per ton.

Aluminum is 100% recyclable, making it one of the greenest materials. On top of this, 75% of the aluminum produced throughout history is still in use today. We can’t stop producing aluminum and move to fully recycling it due to increasing demands. However, implementing systems to support aluminum decarbonization is the next best step.

The Future of Aluminum Decarbonization

Recently, the Biden administration announced a $6 billion initiative to reduce greenhouse gasses. This program would provide research funding for technology that aims to reduce emissions. This initiative includes aluminum. 

This technology has been created before. ELYSIS, a Canadian-based aluminum production company, has developed technology that produces oxygen rather than greenhouse gases like CO2. This technology, or one similar to it, could help us achieve aluminum decarbonization globally.

The demand for aluminum is only going to keep increasing over time. Developing sustainable solutions for producing aluminum will be essential to battling greenhouse gas emissions. 

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint with GK

We build our recycling equipment to sort recycled scrap metal efficiently while still being sustainable and lowering energy requirements. Contact us to learn more about how General Kinematics can help you reduce your carbon footprint while recycling.

Jack McLellan

Marketing Coordinator

Jack specializes in creating compelling digital marketing content such as social media, blog posts, newsletters, and more. He works with General Kinematics industry experts to develop educational content for the foundry, recycling, mining, and aggregate industries.