Aluminum extrusion manufacturers
are produced via two different routes: primary aluminium production from ore and recycling aluminium from process scrap and used.
The recycled content approach is a useful metric only for material where the energy and cost saved by recycling are relatively small compared to those of primary production. In practice, this means that these materials would otherwise be incinerated or landfilled as waste. In this case, targeting a percentage of recycled content has an environmental meaning since it stimulates a market for recycled materials that is otherwise limited, uneconomic or immature.
The recycled content concept has a limited environmental significance for metals, especially for aluminium which is systematically recycled. ISO 14044 offers guidelines how to consider recycling in the life cycle of products. In the case of aluminium architectural products, which are not lost or consumed during the lifetime of a building, but only used and which are recycled an indefinite number of times (with some losses); there is no longer a “grave” or landfilling stage. They clearly fulfil the idea of a “cradle-to-cradle” approach. Aluminium building products are recycled without alteration of the metal’s inherent properties; therefore the best approach to improving resource efficiency is the intelligent design of applications that maximize the end of life recycling rate.This approach does not apply to aluminium for which recycling technologies and markets are mature and profitable as reflected by the high value of aluminium scrap.
The high value of aluminium products is a function of their unique properties and these unique properties are realised through the input of significant quantities of energy in the smelting process.
All steps in the aluminium production process, as with all industrial processes, consume energy: fuel is combusted to mine, move and refine bauxite. Refineries may co-generated electricity for use or export in addition to producing the steam required for process. Smelters combust fuel within the facility to generate heat for anode baking, casting and supporting operations and semi fabrication and fabrication facilities require heat and pressure to form the metal. The energy required by these processes, however, is relatively low compared to the electrical energy required by the reduction process.