Infinitely recyclable

By Modern Metals' staff

June 2010- When recycled, the aluminum from a can can be back on the shelf in as little as 60 days, and 34 cans can be made from just one pound of aluminum. According to The Aluminum Association, "using recycled aluminum saves 95 percent of the energy that would be used to produce new aluminum."

Although the aluminum can is currently the most recycled container, with a recycling rate of more than 69 percent worldwide, the aluminum industry is striving to increase that number and further improve the aluminum can's carbon footprint.

Throwing out an aluminum can wastes as much energy as pouring out half of that can's volume of gasoline, but recycling one ton of aluminum saves the energy equivalent of 1,100 gallons of gas or electricity used by a typical American home over 3.5 years, The Aluminum Association pointed out in a presentation.

To further study the sustainability of aluminum cans, The Aluminum Association, Arlington, Va., recently released an extensive life-cycle analysis of aluminum cans. The study was carried out by PE Americas, which is part of PE International, and was undertaken in part to respond to Wal-Mart's packaging scorecard, which calls for its suppliers in all sectors to reduce their carbon footprint, according to a press release.

The assessment is an independent, comprehensive life-cycle study, which analyzed the entire production process--from bauxite mining to can manufacturing. Further, it examined the can manufacturing process using both the cradle-to-cradle, closed loop approach and the recycled content approach, identifying and quantifying the energy and raw materials used and the emissions and wastes generated. As a result, it helps examine a product's impact on the environment to help companies implement steps to reduce their carbon footprint.

The results of the study show "that we are using significantly less material and less energy to produce same-size beverage cans as compared with 17 years ago," said Steve Larkin, president of The Aluminum Association, in a press release. "The aluminum industry has made tremendous gains in sustainability. The aluminum can is more sustainable than ever."

The results of the study confirmed major reductions in the aluminum can's carbon footprint and energy use. It found a reduction in the overall carbon footprint of the aluminum can by 44 percent, 30 percent less energy usage, a reduction in package weight of 15 percent and 68 percent total recycled content, the highest of any beverage packaging material. "The study also confirmed our belief that the key to continuing to improve the carbon footprint of the aluminum can is to increase recycling rates," said Pat Persico, manager of corporate communications for Novelis and chair of the Aluminum Association's Can Committee, in a press release. She also pointed out that the aluminum industry is committed to a goal to increase the recycling rate to 75 percent by 2015, up from its current rate of 54.2 percent. "Recycled aluminum uses 95 percent less energy and creates 95 percent less greenhouse gas emissions than new aluminum." MM






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